Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Category: life (page 1 of 3)

I am halfway to 34, and this coming December 24th will be my 34th Christmas Eve, which is how I measure Christmases. For me, Christmas has never been so much about lists and presents and trees as it has been about making those lists and anticipating those presents underneath that tree. Which means that, for me, the essence of Christmas is the breathless hope of wishing on the brightest star in the sky and believing it might come true. That singular moment of potential.

Christmas Eve occurs before the fire at my parents’ house, surrounded by my mother’s sister and her family, as well as any friends who happen to wassail their ways to our home. It’s full of egg nog and sugar cookies and chances are there’s enough nog it gets blurrier as the evening continues in fits of discarded wrapping paper and torn asunder envelopes, but one thing stands out. One thing always stands out.

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A long time ago, I dated (briefly) a girl whom I took out on the night before Thanksgiving. We went out with mutual friends to a bar, and we danced and drank and were young. At the end of the evening, I drove her home, and I kissed her goodnight. It was our first kiss, and I remember that cold November evening, the crunch of snow and crackle of ice, the sharp dark air full of possibility. I remember the feel of her lips against mine, the feel of her hair in my fingers, the skin of her cheek under my fingertips.

A brief kiss, as the universe goes. A defiant flicker in the darkness.

She told me, later, long after I’d turned and trudged back to my car and started it and driven home, that she’d melted against the door. Just like in the movies.

I’m grateful for that moment.

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Tying the knot isn’t the only big change I’m making in my life. But, then, my life has been one enormous change after another for the past five or so years, so I guess it’s not really altogether new.

But man is it exciting.

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In April 2006, I left the corporate world to go back to school. I didn’t know much, only that if I hoped to do what I wanted to do, I needed to be a better writer. For a long time, I had no idea how to go about becoming one. It’s not as though there are standards and qualifications and credentials, sadly. It’s not as though writing is the sort of thing one can study hard enough long enough and pass a test and be appointed one.

It’s not like law or medicine, in other words. It’s not like most things.

Still, I had, then, an inkling. I had a start. I had an idea that felt right, and so I left Jersey and went to USC. I was about to say I left everything I knew to embark on a new journey at the culmination of which–but let’s be honest, that’s overwritten, and I didn’t go to school to learn to overwrite.

Truthfully, I learned one of the best ways to be a better writer is to shut my trap.

USC felt galvanic, the sort of right decision that compels one to forget caution and take a chance. Any chance at all. So I did.

By then I had already joined MySpace, and this gets all wrapped up together, and sometimes I think is why I stop and start at this posting and maintenance thing.

Ah, MySpace. Sometimes I think that MySpace was the worst thing that ever happened to my writing, and it might be, but on the other hand it might simultaneously be the best thing, as well. MySpace is kind of like a zombie movie where so many of us had a dream vacation that went rapidly south because of some virulent outbreak that was caught–in opposition to dramatic theory–just in time, so we all left and quarantined the whole shebang, and now we smile about the memory of all those groups and a few of the bands that flashed there and then got a paragraph’s worth of coverage in Rolling Stone and some putz with a hat while simultaneously expressing relief that whew, thank goodness that’s over.

But boy did I lose sight of writing.

I think, in some ways, I realized it. When I think back, I remember I took a lot of breaks. I’d just check out for a couple weeks. I always have been sporadic when it comes to maintaining the sort of ever-constant vigilance building-a-readership-through-social-networking seems to require.

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This weekend, I turn 33 (seriously? 33? When did this happen?). Well. I have a lot of things planned this weekend, including a luncheon tomorrow and a Walk for the Cure on Sunday and various parties and destinations between, so I’m trying to figure out where I’ll pencil in the “Turn 33” part, but I’m hoping to get to it.

Maybe next weekend.

Who knows?

This past week, I completed my MBA. I got the “Congratulations graduate!” email yesterday, and today found that my final grades had been posted. After acing this past semester, and solidly, I pulled my GPA up to a respectable 3.769. Not bad for a guy with a background in literature and science.

If you’d asked me, when I packed up my car to drive to Los Angeles for USC, where I saw myself in five years, I don’t think completing an MBA in Pittsburgh would have occurred to me, but then again, I never would have predicted much of the past decade.

So in celebration of completing my MBA, and probably turning 33 if I can get around to it, and everything else that’s been going on, I thought I’d have a big Exciting Writing sale. May has always been my favorite month, because finally it’s actually spring, now boubt adout it as my pop used to say, and flowers are in bloom and the world’s turning green again and pretty soon it’s going to be summer and that means bikinis and reading.

Two of my favorite things ever.

So, for the weekend (and probably a couple extra days), Meets Girl is just 99 cents.

As is my collection. As are all Exciting books, for that matter.

So you’ve got a novel, a collection, two short stories, and a long essay concerning literature and poetry and medical education to choose from. Heck, get it all for less than five bucks, and you’ll have enough reading material to last you a month or two.

At which time, The Prodigal Hour will be available.

Pretty cool how that’s gonna work, right?

And again with the link. Right here! Exciting writing for a dollar! Read all of them!

Finishing my MBA at Regis University.

Regis splits semesters into two eight-week sessions, and this year, this Spring 2011, my first eight-week session was devoted to what they call the capstone, and which is actually titled Strategies in Global Environments. So the reason I disappeared was that, for the past eight weeks, I’ve been part of a five-student team acting as consultants, in a simulation, running an athletic apparel company called Mercury International.

Given that it’s a simulation, the whole experience has been rather like one long, turn-based RPG videogame. Well. I think that’s what it’s like. I tend to prefer third-person, plot-drive shooters when it comes to videogames (inFamous ftw!), and this was nothing like that. It was divided into weekly rounds, and every week, we held a conference call during which we discussed and agreed on strategies going forward, based on previous results and future objectives.

I had a great team, and a great time. But I’d wanted to finish this strong, and I feel, now, like I have.

And now, just one more course to go. Product Management.

Product management is interesting from my side of things. I’m a writer, but if you think artists are selling art, well, at least in a digital context that becomes slightly problematic. Ross Pruden has an #infdist hashtag on Twitter that discusses Infinite Distribution, which is basically how creators can make a sustainable living from their creations in an age where information pretty much, at this point, demands to be free.

Of course, that’s not even to mention how many creators actually ever make a sustainable living, anyway. Stephen King and Jo Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, sure, but they’re modern-day exceptions. Shakespeare pretty much made a living as a real-estate agent when he wasn’t collecting money from some lord or other (to whom he may or may not have dedicated his sonnets).

Really, nowadays, with sites and Kindles and apps and independence, what writers are selling is more themselves. Which tends to be even more problematic from the self-promotion side of things (because no writer wants to be Tila Tequila).

Which I think is going to be helpful for me, in approaching this final course. For years, now, I’ve been trying to work out the kinks in what I’m doing, between MySpace and Facebook and Amazon Kindle and this site and Twitter and work and teaching and writing. I go back and forth in terms of how rewarding any one endeavor is, but there’s so little cohesion between everything. I look at authors who have nine different profiles across seventeen different sites, and all I want to do is take a nap.

And write.

So wish me luck. Hopefully, after I finish, I’ll have some better ideas, some better strategies, and some better writing for your better reading.

Seems like this week is always rather retrospective. Years in review, all that. Lots of sites running “Top Stories of 2010” posts, as though what wouldn’t have been news again last week suddenly is solely by virtue of when it was news. It’s like the East Coast blizzard froze the whole world, which is stuck hoping for thaw to begin tomorrow.

I thought about doing some best-of posts. The decade-best lists are some of the most popular posts on this site. Yesterday, however, I glanced through a list of movies that came out in 2011 and found precisely two I thought were remarkable: How to Train Your Dragon and The Social Network. The former was a surprise; it had a lot of heart and was a lot of fun, and it managed that rare thing of being a movie aimed at a younger audience that appealed across a wider age range without using irreverent humor and other such innuendo-based means. With Shrek, one of the things that increased its appeal was jokes that kids wouldn’t have gotten; it worked on multiple levels; Dragon, on the other hand, stuck mainly consistent in just trying to tell its story, and I think it was a better movie for it.

The Social Network demonstrates that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Panic Room were flukes from a guy who’s been getting better since the beginning, by which I mean that David Fincher had shown signs of improvement over his career and development as a director in years previous by making movies that were consistently better than the ones before. Se7en was fantastic after Alien3. The Game is underrated, and then there’s Fight Club, and then, just when you think that he’s got a style, signature shots, all that, Zodiac, which was the first time he just turned the camera on and followed the story (which isn’t to say his obvious style didn’t serve his other movies). And now The Social Network the rise and continued rise of Zuckerberg and Facebook, which was, on all levels, fantastic.

I read other movies people were raving about, but didn’t much like them when I sat down to check them out. Inception, in particular . . . just didn’t do it for me. Funny: I remember when The Matrix came out, and all the people who claimed not to “get it,” that it just never made sense to them, all that, and then watching Inception . . . my initial thought was “So it’s The Matrix but with dreams and less action?”

That thought never went away. It eventually became more negative, in fact, but one of my resolutions this year is to be more positive. Exciting is not about negativity, after all.

Other things that were exciting:

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I started working at Equinox Greenwich Avenue on June 1st of this year. After a few weeks of training and corporate policy, I got cleared to do fitness analyses and complimentary personal training sessions.

Ramping up a personal training business isn’t exactly easy. One starts from scratch, basically, in a new gym. The first few weeks are spent less meeting members than meeting colleagues, after which one becomes more comfortable and can start talking to more people. Offering to do sessions, bringing people in to establish fitness foundations and help them reach their goals.

I didn’t train my first actual client until mid-July, but after that I started to gain more traction, and just about two months later, I’ve had nearly a dozen clients. Several have come twice a week pretty consistently, even with vacation time off, and already we’re getting great results.

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In Manhattan, and perhaps especially this past year, September comes as a relief from sweltering August and its smother-you humidity. Manhattan is city where humidity gathers in pockets; walk down into a subway platform and you’ll know the feeling instantly as oppression wraps around your head. It truly can be that bad, especially when you consider the smell and the tangibility of it.

I’ve heard this summer has been the hottest on record in a ridiculous number of years. No source there, though, besides walking outside, which I think I’ve done enough of to say, brother, if it ain’t, it’s got to be close. This past summer has been the sort that makes me want to invite climate-change deniers to my apartment, where I’d plan to shut off my window-box air conditioner units except that might be construed as cruel and unusual punishment.

This time last year, I was a month into comeback. This time this year, I feel like I’ve made Manhattan home.

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It’s over here.

It helps explain why I went quiet for so many months, and stopped posting here altogether.

I know, I know: I said I was going to return to consistent form, managed several posts, and then disappeared for months. I mean, I’ve been on Twitter and writing monthly for The Nervous Breakdown, but haven’t really been here since early February, looks like.

Lots of stuff going on these past several months. Early on, much of my attention was focused on my mom, who was sick.

One day I’ll write about all that.

Today is not that day.

Today I want to write about turning 32.

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Been a long, long time, hasn’t it? How are you?

I’m good. Great, in fact. Well. Mostly.

If you’re wondering whatever happened to me, don’t feel bad; there are days I wonder the same thing. If only because some days you look up and around you and you wonder, my, where did the time go?

The past six months went a lot of places. I visited gorgeous San Francisco. By all accounts, it was supposed to be cool and foggy in the middle of June, but there was nary a cloud in the sky, and boy did I have a fantastic time, drinking horchata and riding trolley cars and visiting ruins. Eating Ghirardelli chocolate and Mission burritos.

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October 2001 was difficult for me in a lot of ways, and I remember much of it in particular moments; the one when, while striding down Madison Avenue on my way home from the advertising agency, I first floated to my father the idea of moving back in with my family. Not long after that, I sat in the office of the business manager of my department and pegged the 26th as my final day with their firm.

That latter wasn’t difficult, exactly, but certainly occurred with some finality.

Over the following few weeks, I caught up with old friends as a sort of last huzzah before I left the City. And during one of those evenings, I went out with a group of girls in Hell’s Kitchen. I always was lucky to find myself surrounded by beautiful and intelligent women and privy to conversations I was lucky to hear (always cognizant that I was being allowed to hear them, and only allowed to hear what they chose), and that night was no exception; the girls I went out with had worked at the Firehouse up on the Upper West Side, somewhere around Columbus and 84th or Amsterdam and 85th, I can never remember which. Back then, we would meet up there for drinks, then go out to another bar to continue dancing and drinking, and then return to the Firehouse, which would by then be closed. I’m not sure I ever saw the sunrise through its windows, but there were several occasions I think I came pretty close.

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Apparently, those allergies I battled the other week? Either the prelude to a cold or the set-up for one, which came hard and fast and knocked me right the hell off my feet. It was like a rope-a-dope, or something. Tuesday I started getting cranky and achy, and then Wednesday and Thursday just outright sucked.

So that’s what I did this week.

On the plus side, I got a loan that should carry me a while, and went to my first eye exam in several years. I studied hard and passed with flying colors (ha!).

While sick, I watched the so-criminally-underrated-it-was-canceled-after-eight-episodes Love Monkey, which starred Tom Cavanagh in the titular role and concerns days in the life of an A&R rep for an indie music label. Really, really great show based on an actually decent book with the same name by Kyle Smith. Then again, it was one of the single instances when the adaptation was better than the source material, and those eight episodes became one of the most perfectly executed television series I’ve ever watched. Doesn’t seem to be available on DVD yet, but I’m sure some resourcefulness and good ole’ fashioned Google fu can help.

This is the first part of the first episode:

With February just around the corner, there’s lots to do, but then again, I feel like I’m always saying that, so I think I’m going to stop and just, you know, do them. I fear this blog became a bit too much like a journal and a bit too little like . . . well, something really awesome.

Anyway, more after I can fully clear the glue out of my head. And maybe beer and venison tonight with my best buddy in the world. Sounds therapeutic to me, even if it is, like, two degrees out there.

I’ll pretend this ship’s not sinking.

Because, really, it’s not.

As expected, I’ve had Go West in my head for a few days now. As also expected, I haven’t minded much.

So here’s the thing: one of the reasons I came back to Jersey and with the intention of moving back to Manhattan was that I thought I had to figure some things out. It’s a phrase I used several times. I expected some deep self-analysis and introspection, perhaps? I’m not sure, exactly, if only because such phrases have always inspired me to eye-rolls. Like the whole “I need to find myself thing.”

(I thought I had to find myself once. So I started looking, and after not long at all, I did. Find myself, I mean. I was under my bed, and boy was I surprised to see me)

And so I’ve been thinking. As I’ve been writing. I’ve been thinking about MAs and MBAs. I’ve been thinking about NYU and Regis. I’ve been thinking about What I Want to Do With My Life.

As though I hadn’t been already.

It’s been a joke among my friends lately that I’ve become a bit of an academic gypsy, except without the whole eyeliner thing. The word “nomadic” has come up. A few people–including my own mother, in fact–remarked further upon the idea: that I can’t “keep running from” . . . well, I don’t know. People say “things,” but nobody’s exactly specific.

But the thing I’m realizing is that I’ve been doing what I want to do with my life. I’ve been talking about Hollywood and LA to people, and how much I disliked the “city” itself, but I loved USC. I went to Denver because I knew I sought city life but also missed nature; I thought Denver would be a good place, but after only a few months, I started missing home and Manhattan. And I really missed home. I missed my family and friends. And I was thinking of here, of Jersey, as home.

So I came home.

All those things, I wanted to do. I wanted to be here right now, and here I am.

Saturday night, I went out to see my buddies play. This was a common activity when I lived here a few years ago; I would go out to Philly usually at least once a month. I would knock a few back. I would dance. I would smile and hug my friends and laugh.

Which basically describes this past Saturday night. I did all those things.

I was just talking to my sister, telling her I felt anxious. Telling her I didn’t know what I was doing. She asked me how much thought I’d given it, and I told her: “A decent amount.” To which she replied: “Well, then, why don’t you stop? You’ve got too much time on your hands. Get on with it.”

I keep hoping for clarity from confusion, self-knowledge like some beatific epiphany–but if I heard someone say something even remotely like that, my first response would be simple:

“What does that even mean?”

The other night, I dreamt I danced twice, once in practice and then again as performance. The following evening, though, I knocked one back and I smiled and I danced for the simple sake of dancing, because, really, what other reason would one need? Is this anxiety I keep feeling just the universe’s way of telling me to stop trying to control everything and just let life happen?

I don’t know, but I’m not sure I should give it much thought, either.

After all, there’s dancin’ to be done.

Feets don’t fail me now.

I’ve been battling allergies off and on since . . . well, roughly since I got back to Jersey, I guess. Yesterday, my head felt as though someone had filled it with glue, and today ain’t a long shot better. Last night, I tried to crash early before realizing I hadn’t eaten dinner, but I found a half a cheese steak in the fridge. And it was from the local Pat’s, which makes the only good cheese steaks in town (my favorite overall goes to Jim’s, on South Street, but I’m usually blissfully inebriated when I eat them, so sober mileage may vary).

Anyway, last night . . . I just had the weirdest dreams. Besides the cowl-cloaked quasi-religious rites-chanting people in the mall, of all places, there was the dance exhibition, of which I was, apparently, the lone participant, and at which I busted a groove to, of all things, “King of Wishful Thinking,” which was apparently sourced from a car stereo and blasted through amps. And by “participated,” I mean twice, because first I had to practice-dance for it, and then I had to real dance, and I still couldn’t help mangling the rondes du jambe or the pommes du terre (I jest. No potatoes were mangled in the making of my dream).

And I’ve never even seen Pretty Woman (only parts of it).

At first I misremembered the artist as Mr. Mister, but it was actually Go West, which left me thinking: but I just got back from West. I want East, or more accurately, just North.

So now I’m going to have that song in my head all day long, but then again, there are worse things. I like that song. By all day long, I’m talking about my trip to my optometrist, which I’m actually in a very nerdy way looking forward to, because I haven’t been there in, like, three years. I hope he doesn’t bitch me out (I wear contacts I’m only supposed to use for, like, a month at a time. I’ve been using them for slightly longer than that).

Good news, though, is that otherwise, I’m writing more lately. This makes me happy. I thought I was working on a novella called Meets Girl, but I just started the second act and I’m only up to 24,000 words and it appears there’s way more than 16,000 to go. So for now I’m just going with it. It’s a post-modern literary fantasy in the grand tradition of novels about writers writing novels, so obviously I’m hoping it ends up way more exciting and interesting than it sounds on paper. So far so good, I think. I thought about doing one of those widget-y things to publicly track my word count, if only because it would so totally shame me into writing more, but they seem like more effort than I care to make. I’d really like to finish it soon, though, so that I can then finish the erotic fantasy I first finished a draft of, like, nine years ago.

Man, I’m so slow sometimes.

Anyway, tomorrow night, I’m out to see my buddies’ band play, something I haven’t said in three years or so, so if I’m scarce this weekend, it’s all that. Combined. But for now I’m off to see the wizard, who is actually my optician, but then again, fixing my eyes is pretty damned magical in my book.

Because, you see, in the midst of clearing shelves in my closet, where I plan to place some of the clothing I still need to put away, even after having done my laundry on Friday, I come across many items of interest, including:

-The complete set of cards from Lois & Clark, including all holofoil inserts. I’d forgotten my Teri Hatcher crush, and now thank Heaven I never got my Superman deltoid tattoo I wanted for years.

-My track jacket, from 1995. With 200m and 800m on the sleeve, which is kind of rad because it makes it look like it says “zoom boom.” Like I was running fast and passed the speed of sound. Which, of course, I didn’t, considering that I never actually ran track so much as attempted unsuccessfully to keep up with all the other dudes running.

-My silk Superman robe.

-My Norton’s Anthology of English Literature, Volume 1, which includes work from the Venerable Bede straight on through to one William Cowper, of whom I’ve never heard, but whose name makes me wonder if he is somehow related to the Cowper’s gland, and Wikipedia would be cheating. I think I remember once hearing a teacher say that the Cowper’s gland is what prevents men from urinating while they’re erect, but I also think I remember it’s responsible for pre-cum. Mileage varies. But from Norton’s:

There are no saner poems in the language than William Cowper’s, yet they were written by a man who was periodically insane and who, for forty years, lived day to day with the possibility of madness.

Whoever said literature wasn’t exciting?

-My father’s copy of Stephen King’s On Writing. I should probably return it to him.

-A 120-sheet lined notebook, which I think my sister gave to me. Its inscription: “-Bill, I know you will succeed but this stuff is just to get you off on the right foot. I -heart- U.” Perhaps as a graduation present? Not sure. I was “Bill” then, though, which is kind of funny. Also: I -heart- my sister.

The Science of Vampires. Which is research for my next major work-in-progress, Smile, a novel I’ve taken to describing as “Dracula meets American Psycho, but funny.” Which, obviously, can’t miss. It’s predicated on two semi-related but distinct ideas I will not yet divulge (you have to read it. You know. After I write it), but which made a friend of mine’s jaw drop when she heard them.

-My collection of Manon Rheaume sports cards. Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Rheaume goalied in an exhibition game to become the first woman to play in one of the four professional leagues, after which she played for the Atlanta Knights, in the Lightning’s farm system. I was a big fan, because I was 16 and she was gorgeous. Among the collection is a signed copy of the program from the very first game she ever goalied in.

Beyond Zero Hour, which is, apparently, a comprehensive look at DC Comics and its universe. You know, I’m sure, at some point, I knew more about Crisis on Infinite Earths than its name (well. And the fact that there are multiple Earths in the DC Universe, or were, anyway, which is why the Flash sometimes has a bowl on his head when he’s not wearing his red costume with the mask), but nowadays I’ve got very little beyond that. Looks like Alex Ross drew the cover, though, which is of Batman and Mullet Superman standing back-back and looking, I don’t mind telling you, more like WWF guys than superheroes. No, for seriously. The Superman on the cover bears more than a passing resemblance to Mickey Rourke’s character in Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.

-The first draft of my first novel, which was not The Prodigal Hour. All 400 single-spaced pages of it. ~groan~

This shows how I, like, mean business, and suchlike.

You can tell by the hat.

Actually, truth of the matter is that I had long before heard of Whoop Ass energy drink, which made my laugh. I thought it was even funnier than Nelly’s (remember him?) Pimp Juice (remember that?), which was why, when I saw it for the very first time as I gassed up in Richmond, Indiana, just off 70E on my way home, I had to purchase a can.

Which I have not yet opened.

(and probably never will, just so I can say I never had to)

You ever get to that point where you look around and you realize just how much you want to get done, but the sheer enormity of the task, not to mention the go-jillion aspects of it, make it difficult to decide where or how to even start, much less make any progress?

Because, seriously. Little overwhelmed.

One thing at a time, I’ll figure this out, though.

Could be worse, of course. I could be underwhelmed. Which is always sad.

Me: Oh, come on, Pop. You wouldn’t know what to do with a glass of white wine if someone put it in front of you.

Dad: Of course I would. You take a sip and you swish it around, and then you spit it the fuck out and ask for a Budweiser.

(this from a man I’ve rarely seen drink anything besides Natural Light, AKA Natty Lite)

Saw those words at Will Shetterly’s blog yesterday and thought it was sage advice. Then again, I often think Shetterly offers sage advice, among which, over the years, has been that I should throw my novel out and rewrite, which I did, and which then carried me on through both grad school and The Prodigal Hour.

He posted it as start of the New Year, which has always been a little blurry for me if only because I tend to gauge every year according to three milestones (Halloween or the Samhain, New Year’s Eve, and my birthday). The latter two come with official numbers and dates while the first has always felt in a way more spiritual, but then again, all have some meaning to me, and I track my life according to all three. This year, the time between the Samhain and yesterday was full of wrapping things up and preparing to start anew, almost as if it were preparation for the fresh start yesterday offered. And prepare I did: leaving Denver, polishing up my business plan, finalizing grades, submitting my application to NYU…

That latter came with a great deal of excitement. This year’s anniversary of September 11th hit me differently than in previous years, if only because this past September, I started to realize how much I missed Manhattan. Back when I was looking at grad schools the first time around, I had narrowed my choices to NYU and USC and chose USC solely because I hadn’t actually done LA yet, and one of the reasons Denver seemed so attractive was that I wanted to be in a new city but didn’t think I was yet ready to return to Manhattan, and home.

This year, around September, the call of Manhattan came as of a siren save the danger. It’s in my gut and makes my abs clench. I want it. I want NYU.

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2005 was the year I realized I wanted to go to graduate school.

2006 was the year I started at USC.

2007 was the year I published my first book.

2008 was the year I earned my master’s degree.

I wonder, now, what 2009 will bring.

Each year seems to have been better than the last, and as stories of lives go, that makes me lucky. Every year I meet new people, make new friends I can’t live without, learn new things about myself and the world.

This New Year’s Eve, tonight, I’m wrapping up old things as I gear up to begin new ones, which is pretty much exactly as it should be, I think.

This New Year’s Eve, too, I wish the same for you. A new year, and new challenges. New days and new dawns and new decisions and new directions. May you surprise yourself, and startle yourself, and in some way, however small or large, exceed your own expectations. May you find something new you love, and may you find comfort in something else besides you’ve done for years. I wish you the excitement of new lips or the comfort of familiar ones. I wish you family, whether that be of blood or of bond. I wish you a cold glass of water on an extremely hot day, and a fireside evening on a cold night, the satisfaction of a job well done and the contentment of a day well lived.

Quiet these past few days. Sure, the rush of the holidays, garland-strung and wrapped in bows, but over it all . . .

Christmas Eve, my mother had just handed me a small gift bag, which I began to open before I was interrupted by a sound at the door I would have called a knock had it been softer and come with less urgency. It wasn’t, and it didn’t; we have a doorbell, but our nearly-midnight caller eschewed the chimes to pound on the door. The only people who knock like that are cops or panicked, and I’m not sure you want to see either on your doorstep on Christmas Eve at 11 at night.

I set the bag down and opened the door to find my uncle/neighbor on our porch, his eyes wide and startled and confused. He’s not really my uncle; I just grew up across the street from them, thirty years going now, and so I always called them my aunt and uncle. That was always just the way of things.

He didn’t ask for my mother; he demanded her.

My aunt had been sick for a long time, I knew. Cancer. Of the just about everything, I think. I’m not sure. I’d never asked for the details, but I knew it was going on years by now. It started before I left for California, but I’d thought it had gone into remission.

It had. Until it went into remission from remission. Came back with a vengeance, like it was indignant it had been beaten, however temporarily, and it intended to make up for lost time.

I got home a couple weeks ago, now. I’d planned to stop by to see them, but put it off; almost the holidays, I figured, and they were probably getting ready for the stress and festivities at the same time that my aunt was just trying to survive to see her daughter graduate from high school. It seemed doable, but only because her daughter is now a senior and will be graduating in a few months.

I got this information from my mother. My mother graduated from nursing school nearly two years ago now, and she’d been stopping by my aunt’s house fairly frequently, or as fairly frequently as my aunt chose to invite her. My aunt was a very private person, which my mom respected, but then, my mom was a nurse, which my aunt at times probably needed. She was a very sick woman, my mother had told me, but she seemed to be getting through, at least for now.

I figured I’d wait until a little after the New Year. Things die down a bit, you know? After the fuss and the stress, after the pecan balls and egg nog, after no one’s buying things to wrap anymore. When life got back to normal.

My uncle was demanding my mother because life was about to get to that singular point from which it doesn’t return to normal, if only because you realize normal’s different than you thought.

I turned around to grab my mother. I had been drinking, of course, its being Christmas Eve, but my uncle’s tone and my knowledge of the situation kicked me into full-on emergency mode. I got really, really calm as I took my mother’s hand, as I followed my uncle back across the street to his house. Along the way, he mumbled something about my aunt passing out, that they couldn’t rouse her.

A police cruiser pulled up as we crossed the street. My uncle paused as if uncertain, more like a full-body stutter than anything, before he gestured wildly and then continued on toward the house. I told the cop, as he stepped out of his car, that so far as I knew, my aunt was unconscious and unresponsive, then continued toward the house myself.

I don’t know why. My mom’s the nurse, not me. I guess I just wanted to be available to help, however I could, in however small a way.

I held their storm door open for the cop, who followed the noise toward the bathroom, where my aunt was unconscious. I don’t know; I never went that far. Instead, I pulled the mechanism that would hold the door open because, even as I’d walked in, another cruiser had pulled into my driveway and two more cops were crossing the street.

I only managed a step or two into the house. I didn’t know what I’d be able to do, if anything at all, and then I looked up the stairs to see their daughter descending the steps. Her mascara had already run, and she looked panicked and confused and like she didn’t understand. She seemed about to look toward the bathroom, but I reached out for her hand, and then suddenly she was hugging me tight and crying onto my shoulder. Which surprised me; I hadn’t seen her in years, and in the meantime she’d grown up. I just held her a moment, while she cried, and then I ushered her out of the house. I figured she didn’t need to see what they were doing, that we should just let the paramedics do their job, that they would let us know if we were needed for anything, and I hoped we weren’t, because she was crying and I wasn’t sure what further use I’d be, which was fine considering I figured I’d found use enough.

I stood with their daughter until other family members arrived; one of the better things about living in suburbia is that everyone’s a block and a half away, in some cases.

I stood and watched as they wheeled my aunt out. At least, I think it was my aunt. To be candid, I averted my eyes when I saw her partly clothed body, and even then, it really didn’t look like her.

One of the cops was a buddy of mine, guy I’d graduated high school with. He asked my aunt’s name, recorded it in a little notebook like a detective might use. I gave him the address, too, as if I didn’t realize he’d had to drive there, because I hadn’t.

I was still stunned. I was still hoping my aunt would pull through, still denying the reality of the situation, like maybe I could determine the outcome through sheer force of will alone, like if I just denied the possibility that my aunt might not make it, I could keep it from existing.

In a way, I don’t think I thought it did. In a way, I couldn’t believe she wouldn’t make it to her daughter’s graduation. Of course she would.

My mother was standing in the doorway still, her head against the jamb, crying. The cops told me I should maybe go comfort her. I nodded a little dumbly, and went and hugged her; by the time I led her back across the street, back home, the street was clear again. Like nothing had happened.

Before it all, I’d been drinking enough so as to be tipsy, if not loaded, but all that’ll sober you up quick. I poured another glass of wine as I sat down, still a little jarred, still a little shaken, mostly a little numb and uncertain.

My uncle called ten or fifteen minutes later to let us know that my aunt hadn’t made it.

Only ten minutes away from Christmas.

She didn’t make it to see her daughter graduate, but she spent her final moments with her, so that must count for something, I think.

Then again, it’s the kind of thing that makes you want to make sure everything counts for something.

I have to admit that in the past few years, I’ve become less interested in Christmas and holiday festivities. I’d say it began two years ago, the first Christmas I spent alone in Hollywood, but really I think it started before that. Thing is, it’s happened, in a way, to all holidays, at least for me; I’ve always been the sort of person who gets totally excited about doing things right up until the very moment you tell me I have to do them, at which point I get all stubborn like the Taurus I am and dig in my heels and refuse to budge. Thanksgiving, anymore, only makes me wonder why more people aren’t grateful every day of the year, for example, and Christmas? Christmas, just lately, only reminds me I live in a society where people shoot people in a Toys ‘R Us and frenzied shoppers trample employees at Walmart.

This particular Christmas seems particularly turbulent, in fact, mainly because of the economy. I read the comics page of the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning, and no less than three of the comics contained “jokes” about the current “financial crisis.” The headlines are all over the place today; jobless claims are way up, while consumer spending is way down, and most analysts say we’re just in for tougher times ahead.

Still, I can’t help but feel some hope in that.

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Besides two quotes, one from The Prince and one from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” those are the first three words of my novel. They occur as a thought when the protagonist, Chance Sowin, crosses his parents’ front lawn and sees that the front-door lock has been shattered. He’s been there before, you see, and in several ways, all of which those of you who know that it’s a time-travel novel might be able to conjecture, but it’s more than that.

When I was eleven or twelve, I stole Stephen King’s Needful Things from my father’s small bookcase and began to read it. It was the first adult-level novel I had ever read, and it rewired me in some very important ways. Not only was it the book that confirmed my lifelong addiction to reading and words, but it was also the book that made me realize I wanted to write. I had read the Hardy Boys series and A Wrinkle in Time, but they never suckerpunched me quite like Needful Things did. I felt that moment in the same way I realized I wanted to go to grad school; moments like that come with some absolute and incontrovertible certainty.

It is, perhaps, not altogether ironic that my first novel begins with the same words as Needful Things. There are so many cliches to go along with it: the circle of life, and what goes around comes around, and etc.

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A lot’s happened in the past few weeks, while I’ve been away, the biggest change being that I’m typing this from my old bedroom in my parents’ house, where I’m now living again for a lot of reasons I’m not yet going to go into, no so much because I don’t want to articulate them to you but rather because I’ve already tried several times and failed rather spectacularly.

I left Denver pretty much the day my commitment to the community college where I was teaching ended. I packed up my car full of all my earthly possessions, and for the third time in two and a half years, started driving to new goals and a new life (same as the old one).

I hesitated in doing so; I moved back after September 11th, and very much spent several years trying to figure things out and not doing a very good job of it.

This time, though, the difference is: I have a plan.

And yes, I realize plans are the surest way to inspire God to laugh at you, but I’ve got high hopes for this one.

I just applied to NYU, you see. I’ve realized that I love teaching and wish to continue to do so, but I’d like to teach more than just composition and writing. So I’m going for another Master’s degree, this time in literature with a concentration in writing, and then I’m hoping to go on to earn my PhD, which I also hope to do at NYU. So far, I’m cautiously optimistic; I want this in a different way than I’ve wanted some other things recently, and I executed it quite deliberately.

Plus: I really want to go. In the same way that I wanted to go to USC.

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing. And I figured with all the new changes, it was the ideal time to move to my new digs. Which are pretty much the same as the old ones to you. But really, the old blog was actually hosted at WordPress, even though it looked like it was on my website, mainly because I didn’t know enough about hosting and the web stuff to initially set it all up the way I had wanted it.

Now it is. This is actually

I dropped the “blog” in front, because: well, yeah. Also because it’s me in the world, and part of me in the world is my writing, and I figure it’s logical the online extension of my writing would include my blog. And my photography, which I’ll be posting here intermittently and sporadically, like I never kept up with over there.

Regardless, here I am. Glad to see you. I’m suitably refreshed and looking forward to more, and I hope you’re having a terrific holiday season so far.

I am.

Because I’m home.

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Like this one:

“Boy oh boy I gotta noisy head.”

I think one of the reasons I felt the catharsis I mentioned was that we’ve gotten beyond the noise and chatter. No more political ads, no more proposition whatever, no more signs on people’s lawns. Used to be that it was difficult to separate the static from the noise; seems like now there’s too much noise, and it’s more difficult to separate the stupid from the real.

Or something like that.

I know I got very wrapped up in the election and discussing it. I hadn’t meant to. I hadn’t meant to avoid it, exactly, but I hadn’t realized I would become so focused on it. I think I got so wrapped up in it because McCain/Palin scared me so much, and because I thought there was so much at stake.

A lot of it was wrapped up in my feelings about September 11th. I realized that before, but watching Obama’s acceptance speech drove it home. I’m only 30 and ain’t been alive long, arguably, and missed some major cultural milestones. I may be mistaken, but I don’t think any man has walked on the moon so long as I have been alive. The sixties are full of a lot of cultural imagery that will only ever be grainy footage to me; JFK and RFK and MLK. I came in at the tail end of the seventies, and missed free love and freer sex. While I enjoy the Beatles music in some ways, I still don’t see what the big fuss was about, and by the time I came around, Elvis was gone, too. I enjoy few movies made before 1980, Star Wars being the most notable example.

Still, the other night, watching Obama accept the presidency, I thought of what I have seen. I saw a black man become president of the United States, and while I know that racism is in many ways still alive and perhaps too healthy in America, I think it’s the surest sign there’s hope.

I remember this, too:

Which was in 1987. Two years later, in August 1989, 28 years and one day after it was constructed, that wall came down:

I think a lot of us had that feeling first thing Wednesday morning, just after midnight.

The end of one era, and the beginning of a new one.

(I’ve just realized, too, that 28 years and three days after I was born, I left for USC. That’s kinda neat)

Because the other momentous thing I’ve seen during my lifetime is something that too often hurts too badly to talk about too much. A few weeks ago, I caught the premier for Life on Mars, a show by which I was singularly unimpressed save for a single moment:

I often feel like that day started a time of corruption and incompetence carried through 7 long years. Seven years during which America lost internationally most of what reputation it had, invaded countries it had no right to attack, ‘defending freedoms’ it had already taken away anyway.

I don’t know what Obama will do, nor what he will change. I don’t know that he will be a good president. But I think he has both dignity and integrity, two things the office of the presidency have been sorely lacking for a long, long time (and not just during this past administration. I like Clinton, but dignity and integrity are not words that come to mind when he does), and I feel comfortable enough with the next four years (at least) in his hands.

I don’t think much will change for a while; Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Berlin Wall didn’t fall the day after Mr. Reagan challenged Mr. Gorbachev. Then again, September 12th, 2001 saw the sun rise on a world completely changed from the one that had existed just 24 hours before, so who knows?

I don’t. But here’s the thing:

While I don’t remember much about the morning of September 11th up to, say, 8:50 or so, it is because that day at that point in my life was unremarkable, which means it was a good morning. It was a morning on which I woke up a little later than I wanted, brushed my teeth, walked a block up to the PATH station at Journal Square. It was a morning I walked from Herald Square at 34th and 7th to my office at 40th and Madison, and if I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary during that several block trek, I will claim it was a good one, because those walks were, back then. They weren’t all sunshine and roses, of course (not many rosebushes on the streets of Manhattan), but after that morning, those walks were different, and they disappeared all together several weeks later.

I cried when I watched Obama’s acceptance speech, just like I cried when Hillary Clinton spoke at the DNC. I cried when I watched McCain concede. Not because I was so happy, though there was that, but because I was feeling something with which I had been unfamiliar for so long. I watched the polls and results with hope but also with caution, and even posted over at Making Light that I would believe it only when he took the oath of office.

Because the thing is, when you’re so scared, when you feel so beaten down, when you get so wound up and anxious, if you feel that way long enough, it can be hard to give it up. Watching Obama speak, I started to give it up. I started to let the sun shine in again. I started to feel myself open again, and that’s something I haven’t felt in a long, long time. Watching Obama speak, I started to realize that things might not always be so dark as I felt they were.

Then again, I also know that I may well be projecting my personal feelings onto those of the country as a whole. I took this election more personally than I took the one in 2004 because I’ve changed in the years since. In 2004, I was working as an assistant editor and living in my parents’ basement; this just a couple of years after I had graduated college with all the promise in the world and gotten a great gig at a prestigious advertising agency. In a way, I think I felt I was going backward if I ever felt much at all, because I know at times I was going just to go, doing just to do, coasting through to get by. This year was personal because I don’t feel that way. I’m working and living and doing. I’ve stopped waiting around for life to happen and started to make things happen, and I think I projected some of that feeling onto the election. I think I felt as though, since I was changing, the world should, too, somehow, in however small or large a way.

I think, too, I felt ready.

I don’t know what the future will hold. I don’t know what tomorrow will be.

But just the hope of it makes me smile at the possibility.

For now, that is something. For now, it is enough.

334 electoral votes (at last count) later, this is no longer what you might call a victory. It’s now pretty much a blow out. What Obama did last night is called “winning decisively” or, alternately, “handing John McCain his ass.” McCain was gracious about it, accepting the failure as his own during his concession speech, and Obama, for his part, remained dignified and concentrated not on himself but on us. Which is why, I think, he was so galvanic.

I think few of his supporters believe he won last night.

I think we believe we won. He just happens to be our candidate, because he has risen up to become our voice. In him we see ourselves at our very best, and the hope to lead our country to its very best.

In him, I believe, we see the living embodiment of a dream:

That all men are created equal, and that we may live in a society in which we are judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. I’ve noticed that pretty much every media source in the country notes the historicity of his race, that he is the very first African American elected president, but I wonder if that does a disservice to what he has truly accomplished. Because he proved so decisively that what truly counts is the person, the candidate, and not the race or the creed or the gender. What matters is action and speech, thought and gesture, and I don’t believe Obama won despite that he is Black; I believe he won solely because, for once, people set color and race aside to focus on what truly matters.

And I think that’s beautiful.


403 years ago today (by my count, but remember of course how terrible I am at math), on 5 November, 1605, Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up Parliament was foiled.

In following years, Fawkes came to regarded more as a hero than as a terrorist. “Guy Fawkes was the only man ever to enter parliament with honest intentions” became a common saying, and in 2002, the BBC ranked him 30th among the 100 Greatest Britons of all time.

Later, Alan Moore used the Fawkes mask in V for Vendetta, which is an awesome movie:

Watching it always makes me tear up. Particularly this scene:

It fills me with a sense of joy and elation, a feeling of possiblity and hope.

The same feeling that filled me last night, first when I saw Barack Obama pull ahead in the polls, and then again when I saw ABC News projecting him as the winner. I didn’t want to believe it; I’ve witnessed two presidential debates that were hijacked within a few hours, or which called for greater deliberation that meant they couldn’t be decided for days or weeks.

But then I saw the rumor that McCain had called Obama to concede, which I found on the Associated Press site.

And then I watched the concession speech.

And that was when it finally started to sink in:

This might really be happening. This could be real.

Given the state of things, I remain cautiously optimistic. I will remain worried about waking up to find something awful has happened. Probably for a while.

But cautious optimism is optimism nonetheless, and of all the rare commodities lately in light of the financial crisis, hope might have been rarest of all.

Evey is right, in that clip up above. The pundits will say this was all about the economy, and partly about race, but I think it was about more than that. It was not just about hope but also ideas, and Evey is right that you cannot kiss an idea, nor touch it, nor hurt it. Ideas do not bleed, nor feel pain.

The same can be said for change. You cannot touch nor hold change.

You can only be it.

And now, we have our chance.

Yes we can.

Yes we did.

Yes we will.


Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
The power and audicity of change.
I can think of no reason
In this autumn season
To doubt or question its range.

Barack, Barack, ’twas his intent
To defeat McCain for president.
Three hundred college votes select
Obama president elect.
By people’s choice he will now lead
A great country toward its greater dreams.
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let freedom ring.
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let choirs sing.

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