So why, suddenly, a blog post you ask? I don’t know, precisely. I mean, I have had this nagging feeling for a while now but I could have sworn it was the bout of plantar fasciitis that pretty much knocked the wheels off my wagon back in May but the truth is it was that part of my psyche that got into blogging in the first place.
I am a writer. Writers write.
It’s like alcoholism in that it’s not something I do. It’s who I am. The obvious difference of course is if I abstain from drinking, meditate, run and things of that nature, I’ll continue to maintain the nice, cool equilibrium that will see me through ordeals like finding a new job and finally quitting smoking. If I abstain from writing however, eventually, my head will explode into tiny little pieces and make a big mess for my roommate to clean up.
So, I’m writing the blog again. Not that I haven’t been writing. I’ve been pretty consistent with writing a new essay which I’ll be submitting for a contest next year. See, I have this vague recollection of reading something in the Writer’s Manual or Writer’s Handbook or some such thing years ago that said adding the credential of winning a contest on a cover letter for a manuscript is a great way to get publishers to take you seriously. Considering I had two thirds of an essay kind of already written thanks to the posts on this blog, I was halfway there and so am adding a last third before I straighten its collar and tie its shoes and send it off into the literary world. Then I will resume working on the manuscript, which is its own ball of wax and hopefully polish it enough so that’s ready to submit to agents and/or publishers sometime before the first self-driving car collides with a drone and brings down the George Washington Bridge.
The other thing that’s kept me from writing is Madelaine. Madelaine is this incredible woman I met whose name is not actually Madelaine. That is just the name I’ve chosen as a pseudonym for virtually every woman I write about. Even those who don’t exist. Madelaine is the name of the most prominent female lead in The Back Forty, the fictional serial I started on this blog and abandoned for a lot of reasons. I’d probably hyperlink to one of the Back Forty posts but, since I have no plans in the immediate future to resume writing it, it would be only an enticement to you, dear reader, with a glimpse at what a talented fiction writer I am with no follow-through. Fear not, though. I plan on taking it up again after I publish the essay, then publish the manuscript and it will be like one of those novels by David Foster Wallace or Chuck Klosterman or Jon Katz that my truly loyal readers will voraciously read but not like so much because I am a much better non-fiction writer than fiction writer. Anyway, Madelaine is this incredible woman I met about 18 months ago that I finally got up the urge to ask out about 5 months ago before she totally snubbed me.
Alright, she didn’t snub me. Somebody in the 482 area code totally snubbed me. Which is even more of a bullshit explanation because I just went to area-code-locations.info and there is no 482 area code. It doesn’t even exist. Look, my point is when you text someone and you get no response, check to make sure you texted the right number because I got no response to my first text to Madelaine to go out for coffee and talk about books and the reason for that is I texted the 482 area code and Madelaine and I live in the 402 area code and apparently smartphones are smart enough to have compiled enough information about me that it will suggest I become Facebook friends with a woman from Nebraska Vocational Rehab because it pulled her out of my Contacts app but it’s not smart enough to shoot me a reply saying “Hey asshole, Madelaine will definitely not go out with you if you text a nonexistent phone number instead of her phone number.” I had been tinkering around with my manuscript for about a year and had finally decided to get serious about it when, at almost the same time, I had truly had it with online dating sites and, with no real impetus, decided to ask her out one Sunday morning when she and I were with a group of mutual friends/old-timers who always go to the same meetings to bicker about the Nebraska Huskers and the Ricketts family. We had traded comments before about the books we were reading and I thought … I don’t know what I thought, which is I think why our relationship has worked out well so far (neither of us think about anything too much and when we do, we shove some Chubby Hubby into the other’s mouth and then immediately watch Newsroom or go for a walk in the gorgeous falling autumn leaves.) Anyway, I thought I would ask her out and she agreed, then insisted I text her to decide on a place and time, which I did. Then, when I didn’t hear back from her (because I hadn’t exactly texted her in the first place, but still) I totally had this “Well to hell with her anyway because I’m busy doing the work of the Lord!” attitude where ‘the Lord’ is me and “the work” is writing regularly, sporadically and, sometimes, obsessively. Then my sponsor asked if I had ever texted Madelaine and I said I had and he later asked her and she said I never had texted her and so I checked my text message history and I had indeed texted the 482 area code and that made me feel like a real shit heel so I texted Madelaine at the proper number and now we’ve been going steady (I do so love that phrase “going steady,” especially in describing 2 middle-aged recovering alcoholics. It just has an air of the two of us grabbing hold of some of our lost innocence, y’know?) for about six months and we’re going on our first weekend getaway to New Orleans in a couple weeks because she doesn’t have any family to spend Thanksgiving with and my parents have given me clearance to go and avert a role I have resented every year in sobriety, that of the childless, marriageless middle-aged single guy in recovery who feels vaguely like Cerberus the three-headed dog at the family function.
I should apologize for my lack of a period or even so much as a semicolon in that last sentence. I just felt this need to get a lot of that out of the way and a run-on sentence felt like a good way to string together a lot of thoughts into one jumbled mess so I can get on with the real reason I am writing this blog post. I mean, I started writing this post a week ago and, since the day I started it, the United States has elected a new person to be its/their leader (I wasn’t even sure if I should use the pronoun “it” or the pronoun “their” because I don’t think the State of the Union is much of a “Union” these days.)
This country has never felt more disjointed, more fractured, more god-forsakenly dislocated than right now. That really is what it feels like, like America is this collective arm that has popped out of its socket under the weight of misogyny and racism and classism and ignorance and prejudice and fearfearfearfearfear. Personally, I have had this storm raging within for the last several days where the forces of good and the forces of evil give an inch and then take a mile, only to have the other side take two of each in return. I’m trying to avoid that most superficial of pitfalls where I just think way too much about all of this and plunge myself even further down the rabbit hole of hyperbolic despair. But seriously, some of the moves the president-elect has taken even in just the last week (I won’t say his name lest this really is all just a fictional reality that I’ve somehow been inserted into like Will Ferrell in Stranger than Fiction and actually saying “Donald Trump” might mystically make this whole nightmare … ah shit.) seem straight outta the worst game of Would You Rather you can possibly imagine. Like, would you rather have Sarah Palin be made Secretary of Education and Rudy Giuliani the Secretary of State or have your eyelids slowly pulled off your head by cords tied to pulleys attached to more cords strapped to harnesses fixed onto 50 geriatric 3-legged mice (the answer, obviously, is bring on those gimpy mice.)
The last 4 days, Facebook has been awash in articles predicting this won’t be as bad as we think, it will be much worse than we think, and that not a whole lot will change because of the system of checks and balances. There has been plenty of shrieks about how everything is going to change, how the American people are evolving in reverse and that somehow Gary Johnson or Jill Stein are to blame. Really, depending on your source, it’s also the fault of the Democratic National Committee, Bernie Sanders, 100,000 people in Milwaukee, 100,000 people in North Carolina, Bill Clinton, Jim Comey, Al Sharpton, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Amy Winehouse, Kim Kardashian and Santa Claus. Do I think enough of myself that my rage at every voter who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because she wasn’t charming enough or honest enough should play a role in how seriously I take them as a person? I shouldn’t, just like I shouldn’t have to read stories about women and racial minorities and gay people being overcome with fear because they don’t want to walk outside with the wrong hat on lest they be tarred and feathered. But I do and it’s going to get worse before it gets better the more brazen and strident the torch singers of idiocy and ignorance become. That shit infuriates me and the only thing keeping me from going and buying a rifle at Walmart and carrying it into a mega-church wearing a Pennywise the Clown costume, walking straight up on the altar and reciting the Andrew Dice Clay version of Mother Goose nursery rhymes just to get their attention in order to then point out how lunacy has replaced sane public discourse is … um … wait … what exactly is preventing me from doing that? I mean really, anything goes at this point.
But then I remember. Respect. Respect and civility and humility and patience and eating with utensils and all the other things that separate us from the apes. The people who voted for Donald Trump who are in their 50’s and 60’s and are really pissed off that there is an ever-decreasing amount of jobs for their particular skill set and that the jobs that do match their skill set are now in Myanmar, along with people who think that it’s okay for men to joke about objectifying women and exploiting fame and money to garner some sort of sexual privilege and, more than that, are perfectly fine with that type of person serving as role model for their children, those people have as much of right to their opinion as I have to mine. No matter how misguided and erroneous and wrong-headed that opinion is because, and here is the tricky part, they think my opinion that is not formed or guided in whole or in part by Bill O’Reilly and TMZ and Us magazine is just as invalid as I think theirs is. Now, are they going to try abolish Obamacare and Roe v. Wade and the Iranian nuclear deal and ensure that the Trix rabbit finally gets some goddamn cereal and shine flood lights directly down the groundhog hole so Punxsutawney Phil never even comes out again and it’s morning in America all day every day? Yes, yes they will. And what I will do is wear a safety pin to tell anyone of different skin colors and sexual orientations and genders that I’m on their side and if they are on the boat and the boat starts to go down, I’ll throw them a life preserver. Hell, I will try and be the life-preserver if I have to.
Look, I’m not trying to paint myself up as a defender of truth, justice and the American way here. I have my own fish to fry and I will not be standing out on the street corner hoping I get that tap on the shoulder. What I will do is continue to stay informed and continue to try and eek out a modicum of positivity and compassion into the universe to compensate for all the hatred, alienation and fear that seems to be fueling the fire for so many people around me.
I wanted the occasion for breaking my blogging silence to be the Cubs winning the World Series and America finally getting its first female president after getting its first black president and that the stars and planets seemed to be lining up just right for this country to be entering a golden era unmatched in its history. Instead, this country is surely entering an era unmatched in its history, yet instead of golden, it is an era of the most putrid tarnished rust that could easily progress to inky black chaos should the forces of darkness be given too wide a berth. The most popular statistic in the last 24 hours has been 46% of Americans didn’t vote at all and I heard on the radio two days ago that Hillary Clinton just wasn’t “charming” enough for one particular Millennial to vote for her. Well smack my ass and call me Sally and batten down the hatches because the American electorate seems to have regressed to a level of comfortable numbness not seen since Bill Clinton pimp-slapped Bob Dole and Alanis Morissette captured our hearts. It is with a heavy heart and the sturdy armor of truth that we must once again sharpen our swords and … ah to hell with it. I’m too freakin’ mad and too freakin’ impatient for flowery language and poignant metaphors. Just dawn your spurs and saddle up, kids because as we say in the Program, our enemy is out in the parking lot and he’s doing push-ups.