Introducing My Dearest Friend, This Gif

I’ve been working from home since the pandemic. It’s a better experience in every way, but the primary benefit has been meeting my new best friend, the party blob. The party blob is an indispensable and tireless coworker who I’ve outsourced all of my mandatory, interpersonal, and fake, enthusiasm to. He is a slack emoji and I don’t know where I’d be without him. Here’s an example, based on a real thing that happened.

Working in America is often a depressing series of events that you’re meant to be unfailingly excited about. Problems are opportunities, company-wide layoffs are just ‘right sizing the company’, and so on. That probably extends to American life in general, living in America is mostly about ignoring how bad everything is, and ignoring how much working in America sucks is the most American of American experiences.

My first real job after college was a very low-skill job that I couldn’t believe existed and it probably doesn’t anymore. I would filter orders to different fulfillment centers, once I’d determined that they had the resources to fulfill said order (‘I have an order for six, can you do six? You can do seven?!‘ and then I’d have to breathe into a paper bag to keep from screaming and then I’d click a box that sent them seven things).

My first boss at that job had been there for five years and looked exactly like what I would wind up looking like if I spent five years doing that job, he was out of shape, and had ruddy skin that suggested he maybe drank at lunch and after work to cope with having to do this work eight hours a day. I found him ridiculous. How could a person spend five years doing this?

Me, it turns out. I would be there for six years and looked exactly one year worse than he did when I left. Anyway, I liked him. He had an obvious hatred for the job that I understood. My next boss was Jacob, a high energy guy who seemed to love this job, appreciated it’s challenges and looked for ways our team could interface cross-functionally.

Jacob was baffling. He was in shape, too handsome and clearly too good for this click-to-send-things-places job. He was my manager for two years, got promoted twice and started getting pulled into every important meetings. His boss’ boss came to him for advice. And then all of a sudden, he quit. He put in his notice and all that, but he was the happiest person I ever met, where could he be going, this was his life.

Before he left, on his way out the door, he stopped by my desk. His face relaxed for the first time and he said, “you can get out of here. I promise. I hate this place and If I did it, you can do it.” Jacob is one of my all time workplace heroes. How did he fake it for so long? Who was he really? Was he lying to me at the end, just to make me like him? What a party blob he turned out to be.

It took me a long time to realize just how much lying is required in the day to day reality of the working life. Jacob was my age, maybe younger and he had it nailed down right away. I’m not good at lying, my default setting is unfortunately, almost eternally: “You can tell I’m not dumb because of how much I hate this thing.” And that’s not an act, I’m just a miserable dope who needs to feel like he has a handle on things (See: all my writing).


I work in the tech sector, and things haven’t been going well lately. Everyone is getting laid off, investments are drying up and as all this is happening, there’s this other elephant in the room: AI seems juuust about ready to replace all of us.

We’ve had a couple of meetings about what a new, exciting possibility it represents, to be able to have a little magic robot do all of your heavy lifting for you. How incredible it will be to just click a button and have this this eternally awake being that communicates for you, absorbs whatever you are trying to say and twists it into something that – even if it’s not perfect, is close enough for work purposes. Nobody is really trying to communicate anything directly anyway, and it captures the essence of that kind of communication, the sort of too-wordy and too-thrilled first draft of human thought that is workplace language.

I’m not sure what the long game is. I don’t know who the AI will be talking to, if we’re all replaced by the AI. And I’m not sure if I see the benefit of having this false and amorphous thing replace actual, human, but dangerous work communication that so often devolves into people just trying to represent what they think the other person wants to hear anyway, something that seems clever, but just safely on the side of being condescending and excited no matter the cost, and completely fearless, I guess.

Isn’t that right, Party Blob?


PS, I’m going to give the new substack a try, subscribe over here:

https://dansanders.substack.com/p/introducing-my-dearest-friend-this?sd=pf

The LinkedIn by Shirley Jackson

As you know, I recently shared some news about the event in the center of town. While we knew at that time which *family* would be impacted (Hutchinsons), we didn’t know which of our *teammates* would be departing (which is why I didn’t share the name of incredible, teammate who was selected to ensure a good harvest). I’d like to share a little bit about our process, in the interest of building trust (one of our values) and sharing how we approached trying to be helpful in a shitty situation.

🤔 Because the teammate eliminated was a byproduct of an internal restructuring (and not a traditional RIF or Layoff purely focused on cost-cutting), we knew we’d be continuing to hire this year in key areas of the business; importantly, we determined what roles we’d need to hire in the first half of this year. So unlike every other one of these exercises I’ve been a part of, we explicitly built in a 10-day Transition Period, wherein impacted employees could take a first-look at all the stones we collected, to ensure that anyone in the drawing who was NOT selected would at least have access to the best, roundest stones. 

💌 After this 10-Day period, the town’s children piled the remaining stones and the Hutchinsons retained access to email, calendar, Slack (via single-channel/DM), and a Notion support hub. They were not cut off, locked out, or disconnected, though we did grant them 10 days of additional PTO to take time to consider their options, reach out to colleagues, get support, and determine next of kin.

💪 While we knew we would not be able to spare Tessie, I am grateful and proud that we found new roles for the remaining Hutchinsons. First and foremost, this is a win for these individuals, who now get to start a new career journey without leaving the town or being responsible for a famine. But it’s also a win for our teams, who get instant new joiners that already have institutional knowledge and built-in relationships within the company.

🙏 I don’t want to diminish the shit experience of being stoned to death. I’ve been laid off twice, so I know what it feels like to unexpectedly lose your sense of stability, purpose, and direction. I am committed to helping our the Hutchinsons find wonderful new roles in our broader global community, and later this week, I’ll share more about how you can help support the Hutchinsons transition to a Tessie-free household. 

As we move forward, I’m grateful to be at a company that approaches difficult and painful circumstances with human-centricity. 💓


*Text copied and edited lightly from an infuriating, self-congratulating, clout-grabbing LinkedIn post about how good of a job the poster did at removing a group of people’s income and access to healthcare

**Apologies to Shirley Jackson

Winter – 2022

It’s winter now. I’m writing this from a temporary office setup in my new house on the week between Christmas and the New Year. I’m procrastinating. I have to log into work around nine, which is in five minutes, and I don’t really have it in me today. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve should be a national holiday. Nobody’s doing any work anyway.

Also, I wish we took the Winter Solstice more seriously. I know that’s more or less where Christmas comes from, but we’re doing ourselves a disservice to not celebrate the solstice. I’m not saying this to suggest we shouldn’t also do Christmas. I like Christmas, and I like buying stuff, but I think we should all have some kind of group appreciation for the days beginning to get longer, and some sort of group mourning session for when they begin to get darker.

Presents are great, and so is pointedly hating yourself every December 31st with a promise to change dramatically in the new year, but it’s hard to beat daylight.


We moved about forty minutes away, from Media, PA to Kennett Square, PA (the Mushroom Capital of the World), and it’s been mostly nice. We bought the kind of house we swore we’d never buy. It’s in a development with an HOA, all the lawns are immaculate, and all the mailboxes have to be a certain kind of mailbox. People walk their dogs in specific dog-walking outfits, and when they pass each other everyone smiles and waves, nobody can believe their luck.

The first day we were here I walked the dog around the new neighborhood, we were about a block away, walking by another Kevin McAllister-type house and I was struck by oh no. Oh no, I accidentally moved to where they keep these kinds of people. I’m not this guy. I’m not the kind of person who lives in a neighborhood full of people who panic call the police when they see a teenager in their doorbell camera. Whoever owns these houses, they’re a certain type of guy and I am a different kind of different guy.

About a week into living here, we started getting these little bugs. Smaller than a head of a pin, but bigger than a gnat. They just sort of bop around the ceiling, they seemed to be coming in from the windows and the vents, and they liked the moisture in the bathrooms. Maybe ten or so at first. Nothing too bad. Then, suddenly, hundreds. We put up flypaper to catch them, spent a few hundred dollars on electric fly catchers, and put them in each of the new bathrooms, the hallway powder room, in our open floor plan kitchen. Amanda had it the worst, her office is on the second floor, my office is in the basement. They like to be up high. Our guest bedroom was overrun.

Then the smell started. We thought we’d bought a house with a sewage problem. Opening the windows seemed to make it worse. At some point, I had to get out of the house, so I got the dog, put on the shoes I bought to walk the dog, and my Patagonia jacket, and went out the door. The whole world smelled like it. Like shit and cardboard, like someone lightly buried a dead body in a mulch pile.

We walked down our street, and the smell would shift. The neighborhood is hilly, and the lower we were, the better it was, then we made a right and went up the hill to where some of the nicest houses in the neighborhood are and it was unbearable. It smelled so bad I couldn’t believe I couldn’t see it in the air like I’d have to peer through waves of stink to see the immaculate lawns and the HOA-approved mailboxes.


Kennett Square, PA is the Mushroom Capital of the world, there’s a good chance that every mushroom you’ve ever eaten was grown within five miles of my house. Those mushroom farms use something that smells terrible to fertilize and grow the mushrooms, when money is tight, as it is during recession-ish times, the farmers will sometimes reuse the mushroom compost, aerate it more frequently and it makes the entire area stink.

The flies that were invading our house by the thousands – not an exaggeration – live only on Mushrooms. They can’t eat anything else. They have a three-day life cycle, and by the end of the season – October, when we bought the house – they’re at their peak also. So for a month, maybe more, we live in absolute hell.

After a month, it dies down. The smell dies down. We can put away the fly traps because it finally goes below 40 degrees for three days in a row in mid-December to kill the flies. According to the Phorid Fly Support Group on Facebook, they used to die off earlier, in Late September, but this year has been strangely warm.

On January 1st it’s forecasted to be 60 degrees here in Pennsylvania.

Anyway, my point is, sometimes it’s surprising how much you can ignore when everything you’ve done follows a particular kind of order that lets you feel successful and that your life is meticulous and ordered. And you probably don’t think you’re the kind of person who ignores all their senses to pretend that everything is fine because your lawn looks great, but you probably are and probably the bugs will be worse next year and every year after that. But we’re going to redo our bathroom, we got a good price. Excited about that.


It’s been a good year. I’m thankful for it. We went to Iceland and bought a new house. We had our 10th anniversary and still like each other a whole lot. Life is good. Flies or no flies.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

7.5 Miles – Black Leopard Red Wolf

Running

When the pandemic hit, like a lot of people, I thought it’d be a good time to focus on self-improvement. It was a break in everything. No more office, no more grocery stores, no more people. No more people. Oh my god, finally, no more people. Maybe I’d have a zoom call with some friends once a week, but other than that, it was me time. Time to get back to running.

Then I read an article about how runners expel more particles, so you should stay away from running trails, and also you should wear a mask while running but it could be bad for your heart, also the plague is probably going to kill me anyway so what’s the point, really?

I didn’t do anything. I made zero self-improvements. I got worse. I watched a lot of garbage television. I ate a lot of cake. I watched a lot of garbage television about cake. Plus, I’d always used races as a focal point for running. I’d train for a specific race. But races were over. The world was closed. So far, this post is four paragraphs of excuses, and I had way more excuses than this.

The main reason I do anything, it seems, is as a reaction to my mental health. I’m either doing something to improve my mental health, or I’m doing something as a result of my mental health. I think about it way too much. My cholesterol is too high, and I’m a little heavier than I’d like, but I’m mainly getting back into running to fight off some depression. It’s working. It always works. So it’s essential that I don’t stop. It’s hard to think about doing something forever, but I should probably do it forever.

During the pandemic, I just kinda got used to being a little depressed. And one of the joys about having a brain that doesn’t work great all the time is that once you fall off your mental-health improving habits, your brain starts telling you that nothing you were doing was really helping in the first place. You’re misremembering. It’s always been this bad. Running didn’t really help.

This week I ran 7.5 miles over the course of four runs. Three runs were good, one run was bad. The run that was bad stopped because I started thinking about an article I read. The article was about how the rain now contains man-made cancer-causing agents, it had a line in it about how it was imperative that we do something about it before it’s too late. So I started thinking about that. How it’s another thing we won’t do anything about. I kept spinning in it until I couldn’t shake it and went “ah what the fuck” out loud like a lunatic and walked to my car.

My other three runs were great. All helpful. My legs and lungs are getting stronger. My head is coming along. One day at a time.

Reading

Black Leopard Red Wolf is a big, complicated, not-waiting-for-you-to-keep-up type book. I read it over too many months, and I’m a little worried I misinterpreted my poor memory of what I read for over complexity in the text, but if you’re going to read this, get a notepad. Dig in. It’s a lot of book. I also wound up finding a few chapter recaps on reddit that I found useful after losing my way once or twice. There’s a moment, maybe more than one, where he’s telling a story to a character inside of a story to another character, and the ‘when’ of what’s happening got muddy for me. YMMV.

I also felt like it sprinted a bit at the end like the author realized there was a long way to go and he was already at 500 pages. It felt a little dismissive of the main characters (the leopard and the wolf) relationship in a way. Their relationship is complex and flawlessly executed throughout the book and then at the end, it’s just kinda gone, which happens in real life and all that, but a bummer in the book. I’m hoping it’s explored in more detail in the sequel, which I’m looking forward to.

I’m realizing as I write this sentence that I’ve never written any kind of book review before. I have no idea what I’m doing. Anyway, if you like fantasy, you’ll like it. There are maps! I love when a book has a map of its world in it, one of the best things in life.

I also read The Clarity of Hunger by Cheryl Papas, which is probably more in my wheelhouse than BLRW. It’s a short collection of short stories, about 45 pages of perfect writing. I always think about my own writing when reading, which I shouldn’t do, but sometimes I think “I could write something like this, something close to it.” And other times I read something like The Clarity of Hunger, which felt so unique and specific and strange and lovely. I’ll be returning to it.

Next: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet 

Reading and Running

I like starting new projects almost as much as I like abandoning projects. This is going to be my new project for a while. I don’t even know which project I’m abandoning for this one yet, but farewell to other projects I can’t even remember the name of or if you even exist. Farewell.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about starting over, starting from scratch, of being a person who made some progress in life over the last few years, and feeling like I’m at a plateau, coasting too much, or realizing that in the pursuit of other progress, some things have been left behind.

I’m generally annoyed with myself for one of three reasons, there are plenty of others, but these are the ones that we’ll be talking about here:

  1. I am not running enough
  2. I am not reading enough
  3. I am not writing enough

1. I am not running enough

Running is my preferred form of exercise because I am cheap and easily winded. It’s effective, over quickly, and requires zero investment. I love running. I used to weigh a lot more than I do now and running is mostly the reason I lost the weight. I’ve run a few half marathons and other distance events, etc, and it was a nice part of my life for a while. Then I moved to Pennsylvania and more or less stopped running altogether.

I used to live in California where it is perfect. The weather is 68 degrees and sunny every day with zero humidity. Exercising is at its absolute easiest in California. Don’t feel like running? Go for a hike along the most beautiful stretch of coastline you’ve ever seen in your whole dumb life. You can still eat poorly in California, but it’s easier to eat healthily.

I now live in Pennsylvania where it is fine. It’s ok, but there’s weather here. The portions are giant and my cholesterol is sky high. It’s hilly and rainy and cold and humid and everyone is furious all the time. Also, as a side note, I think there’s a group of Jeep owners who are also maybe white supremacists? They call themselves the Infidel Jeepers. This isn’t related to my running journey, but it’s worth mentioning because I don’t know what it is and maybe someone does. People who drive Jeeps with Infidel Jeepers stickers which are surrounded by Punisher skull stickers, don’t tread on me bullshit. Anyway, it’s different here, is my point. It’s culturally very different and food is a cornerstone of culture. You can still eat healthily in PA, but it’s easier to eat poorly.

It could all be in my head, but for a long time, it felt like I was simultaneously the unhealthiest person I knew in California and the healthiest person I knew in Pennsylvania.

When I moved back to Pennsylvania, the humidity and the rain and the cold and the scary jeeps all became enough of an obstacle for me to not bother with it anymore. I still ran here and there, but I slowly fell out of the habit and just started gaining weight again.

I just started running again. I had to start back at C25k. It was demoralizing. I figure I should write about it. I’ll be documenting the climb back to running regularly here. I’m currently at week six of C25k. It’s brutal and I’m so out of shape. Look forward to blog posts about shin splints or my feet hurting or my general oldness. I don’t know what this will be.

2. I am not reading enough

I don’t really read anymore. I can’t blame this on PA or any type of weird bumper sticker alliance. I just slowly started staring at my iPad all the time. During the pandemic, I really wanted to better myself, like everyone else, but mostly I stared at youtube. I have a thing I want to write about this, maybe in a later post, how I slowly just watched wholesome youtube videos about video games for the duration of the pandemic, he says as though the pandemic was over. Honestly not upset about it, but I miss reading. I miss books.

I’m in the middle of Black Leopard, Red Wolf. I’m going to finish it by the weekend. I’ll write a post next Sunday about it, and my running experience for the week. After that, I have a stack of AWP books to get through, the sequel to BLRW, and a hundred other things. I just want to make reading a primary part of my life again. I don’t have a focus right now. I’m mostly just working at a job I’m maybe getting laid off from, maybe buying a new house, ignoring the old pandemic, ignoring the new pandemic, etc.

Sneak preview of my review of BLRW: It’s good! Most of my book reviews are going to be like my preferred youtube content these days: wholesome, devoid of deep thought, friendly, soothing.

3. I am not writing enough

For a while I was writing a flash piece every week, I feel like I was doing that for a long time but in reality, it was only about a year and most of those pieces were published. I want to get back to that but for now, I will resolve the writing drought by writing these posts. I’m also doing a word west writing workshop in the fall that I’m excited about. I also write for a living but that doesn’t count for some reason.

Anyway, I’m off now. I’ll post something Sunday. Please do not join a jeep cult before then.

Summer 2022 – Memorial Day

It’s not technically summer yet, but Memorial Day is the unofficial start of Summer and also it’s going to be 95 tomorrow, so that’s close enough.

I just put in the air conditioner into our kitchen window. It’s a small window and our old one broke. It’s not clear when it broke, but a good guess is: last fall I accidentally dropped it on the concrete floor of our basement and something made a big “I just broke” noise and I thought “sounds like something I’ll deal with in the spring.” I was right. I’m very smart.

I’d already reinstalled it before I realized it was broken, so it was just in the window for about a week doing nothing until I tried to turn it on. It wheezed for a minute and then clicked off. I searched for an appliance repair place, but those don’t really exist and it’s going to be 95 tomorrow. I bought a new one on Amazon and it was delivered to the house same-day.

While I was removing the broken one it started leaking rainwater all over the floor, and the dog was underfoot, and he got wet, and he tried to hide from the water but clipped the back of my knee. So I kinda fell backwards and then was angry and tried to hurry out the door with a big box of rain but I forgot to unplug it, so I ripped the socket out of the wall.

Only the bottom socket broke, so I plugged the new AC into the one I didn’t destroy and have decided to forget about it, hoping it doesn’t catch fire because I can’t order a new socket on Amazon. I’d have to call a guy who knows how to do things and I’m exhausted already.

———

There’s a clip I think about a lot. I can’t find it now. I think I saw it on Tim Robinson’s Instagram stories of all places. It was a guy in his late fifties being interviewed by a local news crew near the start of the pandemic.

He’s in his SUV in a Home Depot parking lot and he’s pleading with the news crew about how he can’t go in, baffled and upset. Home Depot is closed because of the pandemic, because the governor of his state shut down all the stores until they’d figured out what’s going on. Which nobody ever did, but at the time a few days off from stores was a big deal. Really hard for people, and eventually everyone sort of forgot about the pandemic, which has made it much easier to buy things generally speaking.

Anyway, this guy is almost in tears. “How am I supposed to buy my fourth of july stuff?” I think that’s what he said, maybe that’s what Tim Robinson said, but anyway he’s really upset, really almost crying about how he can’t go in this store to buy something he probably doesn’t need. And, just to stereotype, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who is ok with crying. He’s really at the end of his rope.

And maybe it’s misdirected fear about the pandemic. Maybe he’s just scared about this disease that’s crawling across the world and channeling it into something that he happens to be in front of, but I don’t think that was it. I just think he really wanted to buy stuff and couldn’t and had a genuine breakdown about it.

——-

The pandemic was a real eye opener as far as how broken our country is, how troubled we are as a group. There was another shooting at a church two weeks ago and another school shooting where another group of young kids were murdered and again, I think we’re broken beyond repair, but since I saw that guy crying about Home Depot I just think about how so many tragedies wind up being viewed through the lens of what it means to consumerism.

The mask debate had so much to do with the ways in which we spent our money. Everyone talked about freedom, but really the same focal points kept popping up. People talked about having to wear masks in grocery stores or at restaurants. Maybe that’s the only places we really interact with each other, but it felt like having a mask on at work wasn’t as big of a focus.

There were five thousand videos of a person in a store demanding respect from an employee, some right of patronage that they had where they’d spent their money and so they could do whatever they want. I paid money to be here. You cannot throw me out of Ikea. They started shouting about free speech and Hipa laws, pulling their rights as citizens into their idea of real day to day humanity, which was just as a thing that purchases stuff.

The gun control debate gets pulled into all these higher ideals of democracy and the second amendment and vague civics discussions about what our individual rights are but I really think the big thing is: it’s really hard for people to be told they might not be able to buy stuff.

People have so little freedom in this country, every moment is so commodified that our primary role in our society, maybe the last function we have to the greater good at this point, is as a consumer and I think when you take that away, people start freaking out a little bit. I buy guns because guns are the most important thing to me because they’re threatening to make it so that I can’t buy guns. Which is an easy thing to exploit, if, say, you’re not interested in public safety or children or people at church/night club/etc.etc.etc., and are only interested in selling guns at all costs.

After hurricanes and natural disasters, there’s always a perverse focus on looting. People up to their chest in storm water taking a case of water out of a drugstore or whatever. Same with protests. People are hurting the stores. These barbarians are breaking the stores. The natural order of things is for people, regardless of need, to buy a thing. Doesn’t matter if you’re up to your chest in sewage or need medical care. The only true path forward is to pay for it. You work for money and then you give that money to everything you need, and if you don’t have enough, too bad. Should’ve worked harder. I’m not going to pay my money for your stuff.

One of the most right wing people I ever met found out I had an electric car and he said it wasn’t fair that electric cars existed because he’d heard that sometimes charging stations are free and he said “I can’t get free gas.” And I said I couldn’t either. And he said “But you can get free electricity.” And I said “But so can you.” And he dismissed it, said it was crazy. He also thought that gay people “stole the rainbow from us”. It wasn’t something he could use anymore because someone had taken it from him. Guns are something to be taken from their cold dead hands. Taken.“ I’d rather be dead than for you to have my possessions.”

Anyway, I don’t have a closing point here. I’ve just been thinking about capitalism and tragedies today. Who knows why. Happy Memorial Day. Remember: Freedom isn’t free.

Spring 2022

Hello, here we are at Spring.

My birthday just passed and I feel obligated to start this by telling you that I am very old now, ancient and brittle. I am made of stale crackers and regret and have recently injured my neck and back simply by ‘sitting‘?

Apparently, my posture is so bad that my neck has simply given up. Something between my dusty old skull and my scaly, leathery shoulder blades is borked and I am in a great deal of searing pain whenever I move and sometimes when I don’t. I should probably explain what I mean even though I just described my body in gross terms, so I’m sorry that this tale now takes us to: Me! In the shower!

I’ve had back cramps in the past, even recently, and what I do is: I take a bunch of hot baths, kindle, candle, and maybe some tea. Luxurious. Like a sultan who lives in a palace hilariously too small for him.

So I did that yesterday. I grabbed my kindle, walked into the bathroom, turned the faucet on, and lightning shot through my neckbackarm and I kinda collapsed. I had to lay down on the cold tile floor, body completely straight, every bone in its proper place, and breathe for five minutes until the stars cleared out of my eyes.

Ok, so no bath. Hot shower. Standing bolt upright in a half-full bath, I crank the hot water and shift my horrible body into the stream. I am able to stand like this for about 90 seconds before my neckbackarm catches fire again and I have to exit the shower and, in a sort of a slow-motion tuck and roll, fold over the lip of the bath and burden myself onto the tile floor (now soaking wet and colder) and gasp for air.

Our bedroom is maybe eight feet away. I gather my strength and haul myself off the floor, wince myself eight feet forward and collapse onto the bed. Then up to dry off. Then back down. Up to put on boxers. Then back down. On and on. The whole thing took an hour and I was in the shower for two minutes.

Today I’m able to sit upright, so I was able to work. And now, I’m typing this. I wanted to talk a bit about my time at AWP, which I have also only just recently recovered from.

AWP has always felt to me like one of those things that is very much not for me, but something I’m supposed to do as a serious writer person. I wrote a book, so I’m one of those people, right? So I should probably go, and listen to people talk about craft and say it like that just: ‘craft’ not ‘the craft of writing?’ or maybe ‘writing craft?’ just ‘craft’ and maybe ignore that ‘craft’ is one of those words that loses its meaning after saying it maybe four times.

I only went to three panels. Writing is a huge open space with very few rules and sometimes when people talk about craft, they quickly reach the boundaries of what any specific advice can contain, so it turns into a telling of personal experiences that end in ‘but that’s just me, whatever works for you.’ Which is valid and true, but I’m not sure how to bring that back and put it into practice like a real writer person. Or if I should. But I probably should? People are taking notes. I don’t know all the people on the panel, but what if one of the panel people knows the secrets? What if the note-taking people know which panel person has the secrets? What if the note-takers are the serious writer people? Or are the people leaving early the serious writer people? One guy had a scarf on.

I didn’t take any notes. I hunched over my phone and texted my wife during a lot of the panels. I told her my personal experience with it and she sent me pictures of my dog to try to get me to relax.

The book fair is neat. Again, kind of dizzying if you can’t relax for a fucking second. But I bought some books and tried to support presses that I like, or who have been nice to me in the past and I met some nice people and only once realized too late to say anything that I’d met the person I was talking to a few years ago and should’ve said “Oh shit, we met a while ago. We both have masks on and I can’t wear my glasses when I have a mask on, so my vision is kinda fuzzy and I’m not sure if I am the kind of person who is supposed to go to AWP even though there are six thousand other people here.”

I’ve never handled crowds well. I’m a bigger person, but even in regular places, I feel like I’m eternally in the way. In the past, I’ve explained this by saying adorable things like ‘I feel like I need to make myself smaller so I hunch over or crane over my phone to take up less space, draw less attention, sometimes even remove myself from places where I feel like I’m going to be an annoyance or bother someone by just by being. One time I saw friends in a grocery store – people I loved – and my immediate instinct was to hurry to the other end of the grocery store because they were busy. I didn’t want to bother them.

I’ve always thought of these things as being related to having low self-esteem but it’s all narcissism. In order to be an encumbrance, you have to be meaningful. I don’t think I’m slightly taller than average, I think that I am gigantic. Saying hi to someone is completely normal, assuming you will impact someone’s day is not. ” How will this poor person recover from the experience of having seen me?” And, like all narcissism, it’s borne of cowardice.

Anyway, whatever it is, it’s fucking up my neck real bad. Pain down to the elbow. Shivering on the shower floor. Stand up straight, dummy.

—-

One last thing: I ticked a box on my ‘real-writer checklist’ and read at an AWP off-site event organized by the generous and wonderful Sara Lippman who has a new book out and you should buy it. If you came out to the reading, thank you very much. It was a good time and I got to meet people I know from Sara’s workshopsand while AWP isn’t for me, I think seeing these people once a year very much is.

Looking forward to Seattle 2023.

Summer – 2021

I haven’t written anything in months, maybe a year now. I couldn’t figure out why for a while, but I think I figured it out the other day.

I’d noticed that my writing was slowing, so much so that in writing workshops I’d be reaching deeper and deeper into the past to find something that I could turn in for feedback. I kept meaning to write something new, but just never did. I couldn’t make anything happen. Not writer’s block. Something else.

Whenever I get in a writing rut, I usually don’t think too much about it because it doesn’t really mean anything. But this time I got a little concerned about it. Not concerned, but it felt new, different. I used to write a lot when I felt hemmed in. When I felt like I had no options, or felt like things were falling apart, I’d start typing, go inward and try to forget things. Make up new things to worry about instead.

The other day my dog attacked my cat. That was bad, I guess. But then it was over. “Maybe we’ll put a door up, separate them.” and that was it. She’s fine. He’s fine. Everyone is fine.


The next day, we’re sitting in the living room of our weird old house, which is set on a double-yellow at the bottom of steep downhill curve. There was a rip of tires screeching then the crunch of metal, then a skid of metal over concrete, then silence. Amanda called 911. I ran out to the car, which overturned and skidded into our neighbors lawn.

It was resting on where its hood used to be, the back of the car somehow pointing 30degrees into the air and smoking. A red four-door something or other. There were a few people around already, other people like me who’d run out into the road. Someone was directing traffic, two people were standing twenty feet away. It was confusing.

“Is this you?” I said, pointing at the car, then at the two people twenty feet away.

“What? No.” they pointed at another house.

“Is someone in there?” I asked, buying time.

The windows were obscured by curtain airbags, assorted car junk, coins, trash, was held between the glass and the airbags, dark brown, maybe red spatters on the glass. In the back seat, a baby bottle. The car is smoking.

“If you’re in there, we’re going to get you out, don’t worry.” I’m buying more time. The car is completely silent, and has been silent, the entire time. I don’t want to open the door because whoever is in there is probably dead and I don’t know if I can handle it.

Someone else comes to my side, some other guy who was passing by and pulled over to help. I ask him, like he knows anything, “are they in there?”

“They have to be, right?” he says, of course. He touches the door handle and I have to turn away. I’m assuming the worst, the baby bottle. The smoke from the airbags is hanging in the air and “who’s in here?” says the guy. Nobody responds, it’s silent and we can’t see. I have a moment of feeling ashamed of my reluctance to open the door, but when I turn around there are seven other people just watching. When I turn back, the smoke had cleared some and there’s a crumpled body in the passenger side, nobody in the driver side.

“It’s smoking pretty bad” says other guy, noticing that more smoke is coming through the vents, it’s not just the airbags and that kinda helps snap me out of it, I try the other doors and cant get them all open, he has better luck because he pulls like he’s actually trying. The doors open, it’s enough to clear the new smoke from the cabin.

It’s just one person. She starts making noise. She was unconscious for a bit and is coming around, making high pitched and dazed sounds. The high pitch babble makes me worry again for a second that there’s a child somewhere under her, but it’s just her.

“Don’t move.” Me and the other guy start yelling at her not to move. We’re better at yelling than anything else so far. “You’re probably hurt real bad,” other guy says. I look at him like he’d just said something very rude and say “try not to move, an ambulance is on the way.” Professional writer.

Then we just stand there. About ten of us now, just stand and look at the car and I guess we all kind of hope it doesn’t catch fire. Someone says “I guess she was texting. Maybe she’s drinking” all within earshot of this person who is still upside-down, and for all we know, dying.

The police arrive. Other guy gets in his car and leaves, he does a polite honk and wave as he pulls away. He drives over the the skid mark from her tires, which starts at the curve above my house, points directly at my front door, then curves away through one neighbor’s retaining wall, and another’s lawn. Rocks from the wall and bits of car are scattered everywhere. Cops in flack jackets take pictures with an old digital camera.

People keep watching or go home. After a while, I see that she’s been loaded into an ambulance and I ask a cop if she’s ok “Fine, a little dazed, a few minor injuries. She’ll be ok.”

After an hour it’s all cleaned up and like it never happened. Cars start barreling through. And it’s fine. She’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine. But I do feel like I should write about it. I feel like I should go write it all down. I haven’t had that in a while.


About a year or so ago, I figured out some ways to help with some of my fun quirks. Some of my foibles. Some of the things that make it so I can’t always think straight but am almost always needing to clear my head, to write something down on paper to get rid of it.

On one hand, I really miss writing. I miss sometimes having an urge to write that’s so strong I worry I’m going to hyperventilate if I don’t. But on the other hand, apparently I was living with a persistent, ongoing car crash in my mind every single day and I just thought that’s what writing is. I guess I thought writing is an experience of being sure that death is just on the other side of every closed door and the only way to stop thinking about that is typing. That’s writing. That’s what my gift is. My true talent.

These are the plusses and minuses of mental health: On one hand, I’m completely comfortable and happy. On the other hand, I do not experience minor stress and then am so flustered that I need to quickly escape reality and write a flash fiction piece about vampires or whatever the fuck. Upside: health and happiness. Downside (?) fewer submittable rejections?

I need to learn how to write more even though I don’t feel like garbage all the time, is my point. That’s the point of this post. My life is better. I’ve done all kinds of work to make my life better, but now that it’s better I don’t have this crushing drive to escape into typing. And I need to figure that out.

I’ve lost the thread of this post, but, as I’ve said, I’m a little rusty. But I’m fine. It’s fine. Everything is fine.

Winter – 2020

It’s winter now. Happy Winter. 

I’m in my makeshift office, which used to be my Amanda’s makeshift office, sitting at my desk, which is surrounded by some hastily purchased home gym equipment which I have not touched since two weeks after the pandemic hit. You remember that week. We all bought gym equipment or made sourdough. The week we realized that all that had been holding us back from profound self-improvement was a global pandemic and a wildly indifferent government. 

Anyway, it’s a good office. My wife was nice enough to transfer ownership to me. She works in the kitchen, which is drafty and cold. The kitchen holds 80% of the windows in our weird old house and none of them are sealed properly. I know this because my window overlooks the chimney which is bellowing steam and cannot keep up with the heat losses. It’s a weird old house. 

— 

I wrote a few paragraphs about the ongoing coup, but have now deleted them. It boils down to: Holy shit, right? January is going to be bonkers. 

Last week, Anvil hosted the virtual launch of my book and a few other books that were released over the last few weeks. It was nice. If you came out for that, thank you very much and I’m sorry I didn’t practice what I was going to read before the reading and stammered so much. I’m not a strong reader. 

Writing is a weird mix of needing attention and hating attention (“Please look at all the things I think, but under no circumstances are you to look at me.”). Depending where you fall on that needing/hating spectrum, you are either a very good performer or a very bad performer. I’m more towards the hating side. Reading publicly is several layers of anxiety triggers for me. I still do it whenever I can, it’s something that I think is good for me to do, but it sucks so much in the hours preceding the event. 

A few years ago, my friend Tupelo invited me to read at an event. She’d won a contest with a local literary group and got to pick some other authors to publish in a chapbook and read alongside her. In the moments before the reading, when Tupelo was in the process of introducing me. I was completely falling apart on the sidelines. The host of the event, some guy I’d never seen before or since, noticed I was pale, I guess. He started trying to hype me up, put his hand on my shoulder and reminded me how silly this all was, it would be fine. He was very nice, very outgoing. It was so kind of him, but the ease with which he was talking to me, a stranger, somehow made me more anxious and I felt my heart pinch. I don’t know how else to describe it. Like something in my chest actually broke and for just a second I thought “I’m going to have a heart attack” then, from the stage “…Dan Sanders”. And I teetered up and it was over in five minutes. So much wasted energy. Every reading I’ve ever done has been some measure of that, but that was probably the worst it’s ever been and it’s been getting better since. 

I just found the video of it, I did fine, apart from the nervous beard scratching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIGPgjE2SK8

All that is to say: readings are weird, but I’m enjoying the zoom format though. Standing in front of a dark room, reading a story to strangers who don’t know how to react (“Do we clap, is it weird to laugh, what is my role here”) is more difficult than doing it in my makeshift office and occasionally being nosed by my bored dog. I’m hoping the zoom format sticks around, not as a pure replacement, but as an occasional alternative. 

Other writing news. My flash piece WOLVES was nominated by The Hong Kong Review for Best Small Fictions 2021. It caught me off-guard and was really lovely news. You should go read WOLVES and pick up a copy of HKR while you’re there. They were really kind to me throughout and the editor, Tonja was a good and patient editor and really just a good person overall. Also, she’s a brilliant writer, follow her on twitter and read whatever she puts out. 

— 

This update feels a little thin after I removed the coup chunk, but I haven’t left my house in months. 

— 

Oh, my standard new years resolutions are as follows: 

  • Read More
  • Write More
  • Submit More
  • Exercise 
  • Stop doomscrolling twitter all day

That’s it. Especially the submit more. I submitted once this year. One time! 

Anyway, happy holidays everyone. 

Fall 2020

Fall 2020

Please vote.

I’ve always leaned considerably more left than right, but more and more I’m a single issue voter and I’d like anyone who reads this to at least consider voting Democratic because of that single issue: Democrats believe in climate change. 

Maybe this sounds crazy depending on who you listen to, but it’s really the only issue that matters anymore.  

By 2030 or so we’ll be seeing massive migrations out of the west and south west, and it’s probably already begun. And who cares, right? You don’t live there. But you live in the places that those people will live, and then maybe by 2040 you’ll live somewhere equally unlivable. It’s not going to just stop. There is no temperature at which it suddenly ends. It only gets hotter from here unless we work together to stop it.

Remember a few weeks ago when all of California was on fire? Remember earlier this year when all of Australia was on fire? That’s reality now, it’s going to happen again and again, and it’ll happen in more places and get progressively worse each time.  I know some of us have been conditioned to hate California, but huge swaths of the state are very staunchly on the Red team, miles of farmers and military families and whatever other kind of person you might associate with conservatism. They’re all going to be forced from their land, they’re all going to run out of resources, and everything from there to where you live is going to be worse for it. 

If you don’t feel like sleeping tonight, google the phrase “Wet Bulb Climate Change”. Wet Bulb conditions are the point at which the air is so humid, that the human body cannot effectively cool itself, meaning just existing outdoors could kill you. In huge swaths of the country, we physically will not be able to tolerate the outside world – by 2050. Which is soon. Do you have a 30 year mortgage? That’s the kind of time frame we’re talking about. It’s soon. Also, think about how old you’ll be then. Think about how much harder your life will be in general, climate change aside. Now add “I can’t go outside or I’ll die” to the list. 

Also, how will food grow? Minor things like that.

The right has been calling Global Warming a hoax for years now, continuing to do that is profoundly dangerous in a way that’s difficult to process. Every aspect of human life is going to be harder, worse. Not pull yourself up by your bootstraps harder, not ‘it’ll be like the old west’ worse, it’ll be physically difficult to survive. It is not a Chinese hoax, it’s cause and effect. The more carbon we release, the more quickly the planet will be uninhabitable. There’s no mars mission to save us, there’s no amount of money that will save any particular individual. It’s we all prevent it or we all die. That’s it. It’s horrifying. 

Climate change, global warming, whatever you want to call it, will impact every aspect of our lives in the next few decades, and every moment of the entirety of your children’s lives and their children’s lives. We should be working together to stop it, but we’re way behind schedule because of a very successful disinformation campaign, valuing profit over human life, and maybe the difficulty to process the sheer magnitude of the challenge we face.  Continuing to vote for people who don’t believe, or people who are compensated to pretend to disbelieve, is directly endangering you and the people you care about. They are actively working against you for their own, very short term, very selfish interests. You should vote against them. 

Disbelieving science and information isn’t a plan of action, it’s a way to do nothing, pretend to be under attack, and get paid for it. It’s not public policy, it’s how cults start. It’d be great if climate change was a hoax, but it’s not. It’s proven by people who study the reality of the world, which is an observable, knowable object and is dismissed by people who get paid to promote very specific agendas.

If you’re a single issue voter also, here’s a handy checklist for other single issues, as they pertain to Climate Change: 

☐ Abortion – Abortion will still exist and will always exist as long as there is human life. Ending human life will end abortion, but being anti-abortion is about being anti-ending human life. This is a toughy. 

☐ Financially Conservative – you cannot be financially conservative, if there is no longer a stock market, or money, etc. 

☐ Law and Order – This is a code word for state-managed racism, but that aside, it is difficult to imagine a more lawless scenario than the end of civilization, water wars, etc. 

☐ Literally anything else. This is an adorable list, but the point here is that climate change supersedes all other issues as it’s going to impact everything in life and actively working to prevent it is the only logical and moral path. We can fight about whether or not there should be a wall on the southern border later, we need to make sure we can still breathe outdoors first. 

I am literally begging you to vote and vote democratic. We’re running out of time to tolerate people who think science is some sort of not-for-profit scam? I don’t know what people think science is, but it’s not a scam. It’s how we understand reality. It’s how you know the world is round, that you think with your brain, that your lungs process oxygen, etc.

Please think about what your life looks like in 30 years if we do nothing, then vote Democratic.

Book Update

The Loop, my first published book, is now available for sale. It is less important to buy my book than it is to vote, but it is a very close second. 

I am very thankful to anyone who purchased the book and read the book and posted about it on social media, it’s been incredibly fun and humbling and weird to experience. I got to open a package one day and ten little blue books with my name on them spilled out. It was a good day that I will remember until the quickly approaching end of the world. 

Again, vote democratic, that’s all I really wanted to talk about but felt like I should give some kind of book update but just like that the end of the world nosed itself in.

Anyway, thanks for reading, my pizza is here.