I think both Adnan and Jay did it. It is all sad and very interesting. My thoughts aren’t final. I wish nobody was guilty.
I See These Guys
I see them on facebook, the guys from my mission. They were supposedly more badass than me. I mean they broke ME down, but I’M the apostate now. They were the guys who got in fights playing basketball. “I wanna be on Litchfield’s team cuz he has heart.” Like I was innocent and they weren’t. They hushed when I walked into the room, like people always have. Ain’t foolin’ nobody. C’mon man. I thought you was badass. I’m the one who writes anti-Mormon shit now though I suppose. “Poison” is what the mission president called it. But they have families and pictures outside the temple. I went on my journey. I went to Boston to be a writer. I’m the apostate. I was the most anal. Anal Litchfield they called me. The other guys, walkin’ around naked. Badasses. They have families now. Takin’ pictures outside the temple. I thought I acted for them. I thought I spoke for them. Not one of them came with me. Not one.
(Directing Davy toward a simple chair) Have a seat David. (He lowers himself to the chair behind the desk.) I talked with your mission President. He’s filled me in. How are you doing?
You’re alright… Alright….well your family, they’re not alright. I talked to your aunt. I don’t think she’s all right.
(perks up a bit) You talked to them?
Well, I have. Your family is pretty broken up about this.
You’re sorry? You don’t look sorry. I don’t exactly see a face of remorse David.
…It wasn’t an easy decision to make.
Decision? You decided to sleep with a girl. You were a representative of Christ’s Church in these modern times and you decided to have intercourse with a girl. I BET such gross disobedience wasn’t an easy decision.
Well, I lost faith in the church out there. For about the last year I was trying to figure out how to go home.
You didn’t consider praying, asking God for faith? You didn’t consider obedience to his commandments? Clearly you didn’t consider obedience after your display of gross misconduct.
Actually, I think I gave it a good shot.
(mockingly) You gave it a good shot. Hmmmmm. You didn’t even complete your mission. (elevating his voice) A good shot! You have no idea what a good shot is David! You haven’t finished college. You haven’t gotten married. Kids? You think your faith was tried? Your patience?
That was a large part of my decision, I wanted to leave before I had a family. I’ve seen what happens when a parent decides to leave the church after having kids.
Well that’s just ridiculous. You wanted to leave before a family was involved. Sounds like you never gave it much of a chance.
I think I did.
You think you did. You gave it a good chance. You decided to leave the church a mere few months into your mission and that was a “fair chance.”
Yes President, I think I was a very good missionary, and a very obedient missionary. And I did pray, and ask God for faith.
And…what did you hear? What was his response?
I don’t believe I heard anything.
Hmmm. So after five months or so, you just throw in the towel?
Yeah…Hmmm. You know the Lord doesn’t make it easy for us David. We don’t just ask him for a testimony in his Gospel and get it overnight.
I know. I was very obedient before my mission though as well.
Yeah, I think it was very important to me.
And how do you know you gave it this great effort, David?
I saw the other missionaries out there. They didn’t take it as seriously as I did.
How on EARTH can you know such a thing?
I just, I mean, I could explain, but I think it would be a waste of time…(more confidently) I was very devout President. I woke up on time every day. I studied the scriptures. I even filtered my thoughts. I made a great effort, and I just think that compared to most of the other missionaries, and members back home, I think I gave a lot of myself.
How do you have any way of making that determination? And even if it was true, you know the Lord doesn’t make anything easy for us.
I know, but I had to make a decision. And I decided that this life we have is it, and I want to live it outside of the church. Now is the time… like I said, before I had a family to tear apart…I’m sorry President.
Don’t apologize to ME. Back to your decision. This “decision” you made. You decided to sleep with that girl. You made the difficult “decision” of having sex? You decided you were done with the church and that it would be a good time to engage in pre-marital sex.
No…(shows he’s slightly irritated) I told you I lost my faith about a year ago.
Why didn’t you say anything then?
I didn’t know what to say. I was afraid. Like everyone tells me, I’m so young. It’s hard to navigate this.
Afraid of what? How we’d respond? Don’t for one second think that a young man such as yourself can shake the faith of me, or your Mission President.
I was afraid of how my family would respond- like you said, they’re pretty broken up. I knew they wouldn’t like it.
So why exactly did you make your decision Davy? Why did you decide you were going to leave the church?
I…it just didn’t make sense.
What didn’t make sense?
I don’t know-
YOU DON’T KNOW!!!???
DAVY (A bit more assured)
Well, none of it made sense.
“None of it?”
Blacks not being allowed to have the preisthood until 1978. Women’s roles. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being gay.
(sighing, frustrated) There isn’t anything wrong with being gay… Is that it Davy, have you been having homosexual thoughts?
I don’t think I have to be gay to think there’s nothing wrong with being gay.
So that’s it. You just don’t believe in any of it. You reject it because it’s inconvenient.
I think it’s the opposite really. I think it’s inconvenient to reject it.
Is that so young man? You reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ because you feel that it’s incorrect and you’ve figured out the truth on your own. Well, what do you believe then? Tell me, what have you found? Why are we here? Who put us here?
I don’t know.
You don’t know. (shaking his head, sighing) You don’t know. But you know that (He authoritatively thrusts his index finger to the top of the desk) THIS church isn’t your thing and that you can sleep with girls now. Sounds pretty convenient to me. Sounds pretty arrogant actually. (He lifts his index finger from the desk and points it at Davy) You are very arrogant David.
I have a question President
During a stake conference “talk” you gave, you went on about cleaning clocks.You were walking about your pal on the offensive line and you smiled and said “Boy we sure cleaned a lot of clocks.” Pure joy on your face President.
What are you talking about? What’s your point?
Why was that necessary, to say that you sure cleaned a lot of clocks? It wasn’t a priesthood meeting. Families, little kids, toddlers crawling under the pews. And you cleaned a lot of clocks? Why say that?
And I’ve heard that before, arrogant. I know ya’ll like that one. You love the “it’s about you” line. I’m making it about me. I guess. I decided to think independently. I am selfish in that respect. What’s in my head is mine and you, nor anyone else will take that from me. And it leads to a confidence that can come off as arrogant. You think I’m arrogant, fine by me. People on the other sie of the fence give me a little bit of that too. I know I need to be humbled at times. That’s what my brothers were there for, you know, keeping me in line. Not you though, cochise. You don’t keep me in line, not any longer.
Now Davy you were disfellowshipped, NOT excommunicated. You watch your words.
WATCH MY WORDS? WATCH MY WORDS “PRESIDENT”? Yeah, as a matter of fact I do watch them. You trying to call my bluff? I’m doing this for attention, huh? Is that it? I have some line drawn?
You know what? My old man, never heard him talk much. Not nearly as much as ya’ll. So I watched him closely, know what I mean? I paid attention. And one time, at dinner with some folks from out of town, my Dad was asked about church, you know cuz he was a member during the time he was married to my mom. The woman asked my Dad his status. My old man said he had no idea.
YOUR POINT, DAVID???
(Stands up and points back at the President) I don’t give a shit what you do with my status, cochise. It’s a name in a FUCKING computer.
Closin’ out the old blog folks. SFSF’s two regular readers might have noticed that I’ve been changing the theme on a daily basis. I’ve been tinkering with it, (stumbling across horrific typos in the process) and looking into upgrades- looking into the future of SFSF.
Conforming the old posts to a new living format would be quite a chore. Eventually it occurred to me that perhaps it’s time to put Esephesef away. It just makes sense. So that’s what I’m going to do. The name is quite silly.
It’ll always be here though, for public dissemination. All of my short stories and whatnot. All my sentence fragments. I ain’t gonna try to publish them or turn them into a book or anything. It’s better that way. It’ll be easy for teachers to access when they show the old blog to their classes. Am I right or am I right or am I right?
About ten years ago, my Creative Writing professor at Palomar Community College had the class write about “Stealing Something.” One fellow shared that he’d written about stealing someone’s happiness.
Back then, I dreamed of making a film about Jr College, so I the story-boarded the stealing happiness moment immediately after it occurred.
In case you don’t feel like craning your neck:
-Stealing someone’s happiness, I guess.
-Okay, interesting. We won’t get into why.
* * *
I don’t know if I followed through with the assignment. I’m a terrible student. But I have stolen a couple of things.
When I was 17, I walked out of a bowling alley with a cluster of candy machines. There were 4-6 candy machines that were attached together by some sort of metal framework. We developed a simple plan. One guy pulled up in a pick-up truck in front of the bowling alley while a third partner in crime helped me carry the machines out. We did it calmly and coolly. We drove to a cute girls house to show off our loot- “Look, we stole CANDY MACHINES!” She came out in her pajamas (it was a school night.) The whole thing had an air of innocence -it was only candy– until we finally got a machine busted open and all of the quarters fell out. Before that moment, the only thing on my mind was a week’s supply of banana Runts. The clanging of the jackpot pouring out of the machine gave me pause. This was actual theft.
I definitely didn’t write about how I’d stolen a dollar bill from a kid on the bus. I should have. I’ve told that story to a few people.
It was summer day camp (babysitting) and I was about 8 years old. I was sharing a seat on a bus with a “friend” on the way back from a field trip, a presumably a low-budget affair to a nearby park or something. My pal opened his wallet and showed me a dollar bill. He was stoked to have this dollar. This was 1990 and we were 8 years old, so a buck was pretty significant. You could buy a fair amount of candy with a dollar.
Somewhere along the line the Washington made its way out of the kids pocket, or wallet, and I swooped it up when my “compadre” wasn’t looking. I stole it more for the act than the need. I was curious what it would be like to steal something. I don’t think I’d ever stolen anything before that.
Well I found out what it was like to steal, particularly from a young fellow who really prized a dollar bill. It sucks. The kid was aware of his loss pretty quickly and became immediately distraught. He looked everywhere. He was on his knees, looking underneath the seat. He asked me if I’d seen it, so of course I lied. I was a thief and a liar in a single bus ride back from a field trip. The remainder of the bus ride seemingly took three hours. My “buddy” was not very happy.
Neither was I- I felt like complete shit. When we filed off the bus, I took the dollar and gave it to a 16-year-old camp counselor whose enthusiastic appreciation surprised me. It was about the inverse of the loss that my victim felt back on the bus. He showed it to his co-counselors, holding each side up with his hands. “Look, this kid gave me a BUCK!”
Baseball careers can be long. The luckiest players, like Derek Jeter, can play for 15-20 years. They play 162 games a year, so you get used to them playing. The good ones, like Jeter, are as reliable as family. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re on TV, in the batter’s box seemingly every day. Oh, Jeter’s up? You can go back to the conversation with your wife or reread the birthday card from your aunt. It’s Jeter. He’ll always be there doing his thing. He’s standing in the batter’s box, coolly holding his hand back, showing the ump he isn’t quite ready as he digs his feet in. A little cocky, that Jeter. But he’s good. Everyone knows it. You won’t be reading birthday cards when Jeter’s up to bat in the playoffs.
Similar to when loved ones die, you pretty much drop any negative feelings toward a respected player, like Jeter’s aforementioned batter’s box thing after they retire. Just as you’d pay good money to hear another “Torture Talk” from your deceased Grandfather (This one’s for you Pop.) Anyway, as I was saying, just as you’d love to witness one of the attributes that drove you crazy, you’d love to see Jeter in the batter’s box after he retires- if you’re a San Diego Padres fan, or even a Red Sox fan. I mean, if you really love baseball.
The hated Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series the night I was born, and as a consolation, God sent a chubby, 5’10” brilliant athlete to the Padres for the 1982 season. Tony Gwynn would be there for me, slapping base hits and throwing balls in from right field with laser accuracy until after I left for my LDS mission. Tony was there my entire childhood. When I was about 11, I was present at a game when he went 5 for 5. For some crazy reason I was also lucky enough to be in the dugout before “Mormon Night At The Padres.” I even heard Tony mention to a teammate that the stands were atypically full in fair-weather San Diego that night because of all the “Brigham-Youngers.” I wore his #19 in little league and I cried when he died this year because that’s what you do when your favorite baseball players die, even if you’re a grown-up.
As I’ve “grown up” my team loyalty has waned a bit, and my love has transitioned more toward just “the game.” Sometimes baseball is boring, I know, but as there is opposition in all things, it also has the most tense moments.
And I think baseball is the best of all sports for its metaphors. The ups and downs, the contentious marriage of luck and skill. Bucky Dent is shorter than your Dad and probably has less power than him as well, but he’s the hero to hit the Yankees series-winning homer in 1977, not the beastly Reggie Jackson, who looks more like a linebacker than a baseball player. (Reggie actually homered in that game as well, he just didn’t hit the game winner. I looked it up.)
Boston is my city. I know that now more than ever. I can articulate why I felt compelled to “randomly” move there from San Diego much better than I could when I made the journey at age 26.
“No, not for college…”
I love the Red Sox team that won the World Series last year. It’s the best group of guys I’ve seen on a diamond in my whole life- Dustin Pedroia, the salty veteran Cody Ross, and my former Padre Jake Peavy. One year after they lost me and the rest of the city because they drank beer and ate fried chicken in the clubhouse during games, they put together the best redemption story in all of sports. The really bad guys were sent away (to Los Angeles of course) and the others were severely warned by the first non-sellout crowds since Manny Ramirez was a youngster in Cleveland.
John Lackey came back lean and mean, absent the fried chicken fat, and the team gave the city what the city was owed. I knew it was a special team when Pedroia and Shane Victorino advanced from 1st & 2nd to 2nd & 3rd during an ALCS game against the Detroit Tigers. A lot of guys would have been more cautious as a pitch bounced only a few feet away from the catcher, but those two averaged-speed opportunists took off. I saw a slow-motion shot of Pedroia pointing to Victorino after they both safely advanced. Pety yelled “THAAATTA BAAABY!” The Sox were gonna win one for the city, there was just no question. Miguel Cabrerra and the rest of the better-on-paper Tigers or Cardinals couldn’t do anything about it.
But if I was a REAL Sox fan, I wouldn’t be writing this. Don’t tell anyone, but my favorite players are Yankees. Joe Dimaggio, Thurmon Munson, Babe Ruth, and my favorite player of all time- Lou Gehrig. He gave my favorite speech. Not my favorite athlete speech, but my favorite speech. The well-fed New York native, born of hard-working German immigrants, in a moment of self-awareness that stands as a reminder to anyone who gets paid handily to play a boys game, told the world that despite his dying condition, he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth. You think about it for a minute and you realize that he was. He knew it, and that’s awesome.
Joe D. thanked God for making him a Yankee. Derek Jeter slapped a little sign displaying that prayer every day before he played. Yankees are rich like all the other athletes. But true Yankees understand their fortune. And as anyone will tell you -including any Red Sox fan- Jeter knows this. Jeter played the game like he knew he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth and that’s why we’re all gonna miss him.
Seattle, 2nd Tour
My first tour of Seattle, I lived with family on my mom’s side. I hadn’t applied to any colleges my senior year, and as my AP Government teacher told me “I had a lot of shit going on.” It’s fair to say that I was sent up to Seattle the first time. It was a family decision. I was a bit of a project.
My mother had two sisters who lived in Redmond, Washington with their husbands. Both couples had children that ranged from baby, to just younger than me. I worked at the family Fun Center that my uncle managed while applying to Ricks College (which soon after expanded and became BYU Idaho.) I got into Ricks College despite having earned a 2.4 GPA in high school. The Bishop of my congregation (ward) in Seattle was very charismatic, and as far as I know, he’s the reason for my matriculation.
The First Tour was 2 years, from the summer I graduated from Scripps Ranch (1999) until the Summer I left on my mission (2001.) I attended two semesters at Ricks College- Winter 2000, and Fall 2000 (Yeah, it’s backwards.) When the fall 2000 semester ended, life was all about preparing to go on my mission. Ricks College was in Rexburg, Idaho, but for the sake of chronology, I call that entire two-year period the First Tour.
The Second Tour was vastly different from the first. My 16-month mission didn’t really go as planned. I “wasn’t really Mormon anymore,” I’d tell people, (not my family though, I just kept quiet about that shit unless they prodded.) I returned to San Diego after my mission. I was all fired up and excited to write about all my experiences in The Church, though I had no idea how to go about that. It was the beginning of this long ass journey that I’m still on. I was really fired up. I wasn’t Mormon anymore, but I didn’t drink or do any drugs for almost two years to show people that I didn’t leave to have fun. I meant business.
I worked a couple of jobs until I eventually landed a job at a movie theatre, which to this day is the only job I’ve ever had where I never looked at the clock. It was with some really awesome folks at the Mira Mesa 18 that I had my first Miller High life. And I met my first girlfriend. I wrote about that relationship here on the blog in a short story called Ether 12:27.
But I wasn’t content being young, happy, and in love because I had a world to change. I needed to move to Maine “to write,” despite having been accepted to California State Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo (It’s gotta be the longest name in all of collegia.) I’d been receiving emails from the journalism department. It was real. Amy went to Cal Poly. She was on the phone with me till, seriously, the midnight deadline-like down to the fucking minute-helping me with my application.
Pretty sure the family intervened again when I went to Seattle the second time. It was a compromise. I don’t think anyone was too keen on me just picking up and moving to Maine. My older brother Adam and his new wife had just moved to Seattle to join the rest of the extended branch up there. He called me one day and asked if I wanted to move in with him. I really wanted to go to Maine, I told him. But he had a job lined up for me, so that was that. I’d been planning on moving to Maine with about $2000, and no job lined up.
I lived with Adam and his wife in suburban Redmond for about six months, then I moved to an awesome little Seattle neighborhood called Greenlake. Both Redmond Greenlake compose my second tour. The sole purpose of me moving away was “to write.” So below is the first thing I wrote up there. I plan on posting more 2nd Tour stuff in the future because I am really fond of that time. It’s kind of juvenile. I’m going to try to keep that feel. I kept most of the original run-ons. Much of the editing was done for clarity. This is the beginning.
I’m writing this now on April seventeenth of ’06 and I’m writing the date out because my last daily journal is all fucked up because of indentations. It sort of made it’s own little format where I press tab and the curser goes all the way across the page. It thinks it knows better how to write a date out. It doesn’t indent the normal way. Fuuuuuck it. Fuuck word. Today was a Monday and I had the day off. I bought a shirt at j-Crew for $20 and it’s still in my backpack and I went to Natalie’s restaurant and she wasn’t there then I found her house so you could call me a fucking stalker. Wow. Slgdjflkj;sfdlkasfdlk;jsafdkl;jsafdlkj;lk;jsadkl;lkj;asfdlj;lkj;dfsal;jlk;asdfl;lkj;sdaflj;klkj;asdfljklk;jsdaflkj;sdalsdflj;kl;asg;lds;asldfka;sldfka;sldfkas’lgk;asdfasdfasdf;’;’lasdd’l;sjdfg’alskjas’dlgfasdlkjasdljfkasldgjfaslkjfaslgjflsk
That was yesterday. I was listening to “I won’t be home for Christmas” by blink-182 and I started rocking out on the keyboard. (That’s all the sldfka; shit.) It was kind of ironic frustration, making fun of myself. After, I threw the cordless keyboard on my bed, (mattress only really) and decided to run some stairs. So I killed myself doing that and drank tons of water and I was really tired at work today, tired when I told Dawn “Pretty girls shouldn’t smoke” and she said that was cute, tired because I woke up at least three times to pee all the stair-water.
The 24th was today. Monday. I went to my new house. It’s in Greenlake. It’s owned by a 28-year-old woman named Abbey. Her boyfriend Sid lives there. He’s really cool. He’s a little bit younger, about my age. Adam went with me to look at the house. He told me that Sid’s for sure a stoner. I asked Adam how he know and he told me he just fuckin knows. Sid musically accompanied Abbey and I into every room in the house. Upstairs he had this hand drum that he’d bang on. When we were downstairs looking at my room, he switched to guitar. He’d play a little chord or hook when there was a quiet moment and just let it ring out. I’m supposed to write about a bunch of things. I broke up with Amy. My new downstairs roommate is a girl who has already graduated from Emerson College in Boston. Her name is Lilly and she’s going to be a writer and write a book about Boston.
It’s about 10:00 am. I’m sleeping on my left side, wearing jeans and a grey t-shirt from the night before. My right leg is kicked out in front of me, making a 90 degree angle with my other leg. A younger version of me sits on the corner of the futon. His hair is shorter, fuller, neater, and he’s clean shaven. He’s wearing a hand-me-down suit. His tie is red, the color of passion.
“Wake up,” he says, as he shakes my foot urgently.
I grunt and make a feeble attempt at swatting the young fellow away.
“C’mon, wake up. You’ve been saying, ‘When I’m 30’ for a few years now. It’s time.”
I straighten my right leg and slowly roll over onto my back. Eventually my eyes flicker open, my gaze fixes upon the ceiling.
“C’mon,” he continues.
I tilt my head forward and glare at the youngster sitting on the end of my futon. “Please go away.”
“I’m never going away,” He tells me.
I make a concessionary sigh and slowly sit up. “Yeah yeah.” I put my feet on the floor, elbows on my knees and I bury my face in my hands.
“You gotta write!” He says. “You gotta write everything! How can you be so lazy? Not now! Remember Vegas?”
“Sure. An escalator in Ceasar’s Palace. The epiphany.” I’m rubbing my eyes intensely.
“Yeah! You were going up an escalator, and you realized I…you had something, but you knew it was gonna take time. Your voice was still developing.”
“I know the story, buddy. I walked around all day drinking complimentary Heinekens, high on that new revelation. I told myself that I wasn’t really gonna get going until I was thirty, like a lot of my heroes. I could have fun for a while. I romanticized it.”
“Yeah yeah- you had a lot to absorb. Well, you’re 30! What do you need now? Who do you need to read?” The kid’s getting excited. “Do you need to move again? …I don’t think so. It’s time!”
“Whom. Whom do I need to read.” My face is still in my hands. “I’m hung over. Maybe I don’t wanno do anything. What do you think about that? Why can’t I stay here in Somerville, work my job, keep playing the bass and just do whatever I want?
“But you’re supposed to write.” He stands up. “You were born to write. That’s what you say.”
“No, buddy. That’s what YOU say. I wasn’t supposed to do anything, dude. You know something? Dad was Catholic. Grandma still goes to church every Sunday, no matter where she is- vacations and everything. She goes by herself. That’s devotion. I’m half catholic, you ever think about that?” I stand up, throw my arms in the air and yawn. “Half catholic!” I proclaim, satisfied with myself. I look at the bed on the opposite end of the room where a young man, about 20, wearing only boxers, is passed out. His name is Turvis and he’s real. I glance at a dresser to my left, the table on my right. I ask nobody in particular, “where’s that little piece?”
“What piece?” The young fellow asks. “…Anyway, that’s garbage. You never stepped inside a catholic church. Grandma lived across the country your whole life. You saw her a handful of times.”
“I’ve been inside a Catholic Church,” I argue.
“When you were on your MISSION. You went to midnight mass, for fun– for curiosity’s sake.” He begins pacing the room. “But your whole life was MORMON. Your friends were Mormon, you went to a Mormon college, and you went on a Mormon mission. You lost your faith and they lied to you and you need to write about it. You promised. You always said you had no fallback, like Tarantino. He went to film school, not films. You love that quote more than you love his movies. You’re supposed to write about everything and you know it.”
I take a break from searching for the pipe and look at the kid. He’s wearing a charcoal suit cut in the late-eighties. The coat’s length is relatively short and has a wider lapel than is currently fashionable. “You love that suit, don’t you. Was a bummer when the crotch ripped. Anyway, who are they? And what did they lie about?”
“Exactly. This world ain’t black & white. Look, lots of people left the church- I’m sorry, you want that in capitols, right? Hoards of people left The Church because of Prop 8 and all the other shit, and you know what they did? They fucking moved on! Can you believe it? They felt no need whatsoever to write about it. They just moved. They tell people they’re glad they ‘got out when they did,’ like that guy from the party a few years back.”
“The party in Seattle, where there were two guys dressed as missionaries?”
“Yeah, that party.”
“But then you bumped into that real ex-missionary.”
“Yup. Nice guy. He’d also lost his virginity while on his mission.”
“His dad was a bishop.”
“Mmm hmm. Well, he’s married now and he sells houses. He’s not writing about anything.”
“Yeah..” The kid slows down a bit. “He wondered if anyone would ever want to read about that kind of thing.”
“It shook you up, didn’t it buddy?”
“…Before that, you never used to wonder.”
“That’s because I was an idiot.”
“An idiot?” He looks at me blankly.
“…A little naive. Ignorant. Silly. Self-obsessed. Entitled.”
“Maybe” he offers- “Maybe you’re different than that guy at the party because you can see into the future.”
“WHAT? …oh, you mean I have vision?
“Yeah,” he says hopefully- “you have VISION. That guy at the party was smart, sure, but you have vision.”
“Visions of grandeur buddy.”
“Who are you?” He asks me. “I don’t know you anymore. You know for a couple of years there, the title of the book was Delusional Degenerate, but it was because that’s how the family made you feel, or how they felt about you. But it wasn’t true. You knew it wasn’t true.”
“I thought it wasn’t true, and yeah, it was supposed to be ironic, but maybe the irony is that it was dead-on.”
“But” he insists “…but you’ve gotten better! Remember, on the stoop the other night, Marci was talking about that literary term and she couldn’t recall is, or who came up with it, or talked about it. You said “Hemingway, Unity of Affect.”
“I got lucky. Hills Like White Elephants. The only thing I ever read by Hemingway. It’s like two pages. Oh, and it’s EE-ffect buddy. Unity of EE-ffect.
He shakes me off. “You remember other things though, like how passive characters rarely work, and Show, Don’t Tell and stuff.”
“Show, Don’t Tell is like 4th grade.
“I don’t like your attitude,” he says.
“No shit. You’re exhausting. Remember when I had the class read that thing about visiting Tyler’s grave with Amy? I couldn’t find the grave. I searched everywhere. I found myself hundreds of yards from the site. I knew the general vicinity. I knew he was buried near the gazebo. But I couldn’t find him. I ventured far off, until I was football fields away, frantically going up and down the rows. Amy was way back by the gazebo, just patiently waiting.”
“Yeah, it was good,” he insists.
“No, it wasn’t. I had the class read that whole thing. And you know what I found out later? I’d written semetary. With a fucking S. A story about looking for my brother’s gravestone and I wrote Cemetery with an S. I’m a joke.”
“You know how to spell!” he exclaims “…it’s cuz when you write sometimes, you just go. You say that’s the only thing you do where you don’t question things. Everything else you do, you’re always analyzing things. People tell you that you need to live in the moment. But you live in the moment when you write, like how your buddies play guitar.”
“They’re sick of the parallels. They think I’m delusional.”
“…Nah,” he mutters reticently. He sits back down on the end of the futon. “You have perspective. You can relax now…sometimes.”
“Speaking of-” I look down at Turvis. “Turvis! Turvis, you seen that pipe?” Turvis doesn’t make a sound. I look back at the youngster. “Anyway, what were you saying? Perspective? Oh yeah genius, I smoke weed now. It helps uptight people with shit like that.”
“Maybe you don’t need to smoke weed anymore, by the way, maybe it’s worked its course.”
“Maybe you should pipe down. I should have discovered it sooner. Then I wouldn’t have put up such a fuss.”
“You always used to say that maybe sobriety gave you a better view of things, being sober for so long. Because everyone else was drunk.”
“Lots of people are sober. You’re not making any sense, buddy.”
“Nah, I think I am,” he says desperately. “Look, you gotta write, you promised! You gotta at least try!”
“Why?” I ask the youngster. “How do you know there isn’t some other kid who went on a mission, got all sad about it, and decided to write? Maybe he or she’s writing something better. Maybe he’s properly read. Shakespeare and Proust. More Hemmingway than just Hills Like White Elephants. More women, you ever think about that? Maybe he can seamlessly insert french phrases into his writing. Maybe he or she is down at the other end of the square. Maybe Jamaica Plain or Chicago. I’ll read about his or her new memoir on the train, in the metro. If he’s better, he’s probably better at drawing parallels. He’s not writing a lazy-ass memoir. It’s a brilliant novel with actual metaphors. Maybe The Church is a giant monsoon, and the main protagonist is a spider.” I take a breath and look at the bookshelves above the fellow in his underwear. “Where’s that piece? Turvis, Turvis! Where’s that piece?” To my surprise, Turvis lifts his arm and points across the room toward his guitar amp. I head over.
“It’s not here, Turv.” I look back at Turvis but he’s resettled into his coma. I stare down at the amp. There’s a mesh PBR hat on top of it. I lift it up, revealing a small marijuana pipe with a couple of hits left in it. “Aha.” I take the piece and return to my seat at the edge of the futon. “Lighter…lighter.” I check my pockets and find one in my jeans.
“Wakin’ & bakin huh?” The youngster asks. “You didn’t drink for a year and a half to show em’ that you meant business. You used to mean business. You could get people all worked up at parties. They said you were passionate, and that struck you, cuz before that, you hadn’t considered yourself passionate. You were just you. You were gonna write about everything, because everything was absurd. It was natural. It wasn’t a good idea, it was just… I don’t know, normal.”
I clarify, “It was a reaction.”
“Yeah, it was a reaction!” He repeats. “That’s cool! They hit you and you were gonna hit them back! It wasn’t an idea. It wasn’t a great little story idea that you came up with while sitting on the toilet. If anything, it was their idea. They gave birth to it! They gave birth to you, you say, literally and figuratively.”
He stands up, off his end of the futon. “Last year when you were thought about moving home- remember that?”
“You didn’t shave. You were gonna move home, you were gonna quit, like you always threaten.” He shakes his head, “and I’m an idiot? Im an idiot? You were thinking about going home and making cabinets! THAT’S STUPID! A wood worker! You were depressed, but the thought of quitting and going home made you more depressed and you did that dramatic stare-at-yourself-in-the-bathroom-mirror thing, a silly moment of reckoning. You thought about cabinet-making or cabinetry or whatever, and you just looked at your pathetic two-weeks growth imitation beard and you just stared, and you saw a writer. For the first time you really saw a writer and you laughed. You like, believed it, after almost ten years, you really saw it.”
“Look,” he continues, “what did you used to say? You’d say that it would be worth it if only ONE kid read your book. It would be worth it if you made it just a little easier for ONE kid to leave The Church or his church or her church or whatever church.”
“Alright,” I tell the kid. “You make a good argument. But listen, it’s different now, it isn’t black & white. It’s not going to be all roses & vindication, you understand?”
“Yeah, yeah I got it,” he says, eagerly.
“No, you don’t- not completely. But that’s okay.” I’m holding the piece in front of my my mouth with my left hand. The lighter is poised in my right. “Let’s go. Let’s fuck ’em up.”
Totally Biased Boston Area Restaurant Reviews
Papagayo (downtown Boston) This restaurant would last about four minutes in regions of the country that specialize in this sort of thing. The first red flag emerges when you overhear a manager mispronounce jalepeno. If you’re on West st, downtown, head next door to the less pretentious Fajitas and Ritas. If Fajitas is closed, walk to Park st, make a right and order a couple of taquitos from 7-11.
Soundbites (Ball Square, Somerville) Brunch food that gets the job done. The rumors about the owner’s temper are true; he did brawl with the Ball Square Cafe owner in the middle of Broadway, directly in front of the two adjacent, competing restaurants, and he will throw you out for looking at him wrong. Despite its flaws, Soundbites is a better, more honest restaurant than Papagayo. The crew charges through busy weekend brunches in a way that evokes awe from patrons, if also hostility.
Charlie’s Kitchen (Harvard Square) This is where you go when you first move to Boston and you think you’ve found a cool place. Tall PBRs. Tall Gansetts. One enormous fryer and a huge tub of batter in the kitchen. It’s dirty, old and loud. Low-level staff endure pure hell on Earth when tending to insane summer-night crowds in the “Beer Garden.” Urinals and toilets are often catastrophically avoided. Health Code Violations abound.
Tremont 647 (Guess where) Molly Dwyer, Tremont’s Chef de cuisine -or whatever you wanna call her- is a pro. Multiple patrons have proclaimed “This is the best blank I’ve ever had” whether it be soft-shelled crab or the braised pork ragu. Eat her food before she leaves Tremont, then eat her food when she owns her own restaurant. She’s like 25 years old.
Dave’s Fresh Pasta (Davis Square) Go there for the “penny candy” box and grab some Swedish Fish.