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.

Summer – 2020

Hi,  

It’s Summer now, somehow, in this, the longest year that there has ever been. I hope that you are safe and healthy and taking steps to help the world improve.  I usually do a fun intro where I talk about where I am, but it’s the pandemic, so I’m home. Like always.

Police

I was obnoxious on Facebook for a bit, angry-posting about the protests, about police. It’s not helpful. One of the things I think might be helpful for us white people to do during this time, is to inventory all the interactions we’ve had with the police and wonder if they might have gone differently if you hadn’t been a white person. And if you think “no, it would have gone the exact same way” you should think about it again or maybe get a CAT scan.  

I have never had anything but positive interactions with the police, even when I was actively the reason for a cop talking to me, here are three such examples: 

  • I am drunk in public and a cop decides I should be not in public. I’m not proud of this. It was a long time ago and I don’t drink anymore. But it happened and I don’t remember much of it other than the cop calling me “Buddy” the whole time. In the report, which the cop never officially filed, it mentioned that I resisted his corralling me. I am 6’2” and was probably 260lbs at the time.  
  • I once had to call the police, not knowing what else to do, because someone had shot a gun at my parked car, the bullet entered the door where I’d have been sitting had I been in it at the time. “Are you involved in any gun-related activities?” “No.” “Okedoke.” No follow up questions, didn’t check my car, didn’t raise his voice. He just pointed out that it would have entered my left lung, just under my armpit, and killed me horribly. He did this so he could watch my reaction and laugh at me. He was just kiddin around with a pal. 
  • Walking to the grocery store, I am stopped as a possible suspect in a crime. I matched a description. “Is your name Jeff?” “No.” He didn’t ask for my ID. “OK, we’re looking for a guy that looks like you, hoodie, bald white guy, glasses, around here.” He never left his car, just drove away, and waved at me when he u-turned. This was in a section of Oakland that was not-so-slowly filling up with guys who looked just like me. If you had to guess my name at random, Jeff would absolutely be in the mix.  

The common thread in my experiences is that the police treated me like “we’re a team!” even though I may have been a suspect in a crime, a person involved in some sort of gang war or a drunk on his way to nowhere. Every assumption was made in my favor.

This is likely why the idea of defunding the police seems insane to people whose interactions lead them to believe the police are dutiful, friendly citizens and not an antagonizing or invading force. It takes two seconds to think of it from another perspective, and I encourage you to do that.  

Arming our public servants with military weaponry to divide us into arbitrary boxes isn’t helping anyone but the people who sell weapons. We don’t need the police to be in some arms race with other police departments around the country, convincing themselves that they are at war the general population. It doesn’t benefit us and might be giving well-meaning police PTSD for no reason.

We should instead focus on making American life an even playing field. We should all feel like we’re all in this together, but we’re not, and that’s dangerous for some of us and bad for all of us.  

Defunding the police sounds aggressive, but maybe it’s better for us if the guy showing up to take a stolen car report isn’t wearing forty pounds of tactical gear, ready for battle. Maybe it’s better for him too.  

Writing 

Since my last post, I published this piece. And then a very good writer was nice enough to include it in her favorite things of the month. It was flattering. I should submit more. I always say that and then don’t submit more. Careful is probably the piece I’ve submitted the most times in my life. I don’t know how many times but I always liked it and I’m happy it found a place to live.  

Also, my novella is available for pre-order on my publisher’s website. It’ll be up on the assorted book sites soon, and you can request it from your favorite local bookstore whenever. I’ve been working through the editing phase and it’s been an interesting experience. I feel like the whole process has been making it ok for me to write another, longer book. I am very excited to start, it will likely be about almost the same exact things as this book. I might be one of those writers who explores like three thoughts his entire life. I’m ok with that.  

  
Father’s Day 

Something that’s already happening is people are asking if the book is autobiographical. It’s written in first person, so I think it’ll happen more and more. I know this is something that happens a lot to writers, especially with first books, but it feels like a good day to point out that the book is not autobiographical. There are some real-life experiences and locations sprinkled here and there, but those things are taken and warped into new things, worse things usually.  

The central pillar of the book is a brutal relationship between a father and son. They both hate each other, but are tied to each other, because nobody else wants anything to do with them. So they just sort of circle and slowly destroy themselves. They meet for breakfast every week and taunt each other about their failures, pick at old wounds, and help the other to stay exactly the same, to wallow in the past and endlessly repeat mistakes. It is a nightmare relationship, and it’s very much the opposite of the relationship I have with my father.  

To be fair, I do meet him for breakfast on the weekends pretty regularly. That part is true. We have much better taste in diners though.  

Other than that bit, I wrote the story while thinking “what if the worst parts of my life became my whole life” while we were on vacation together. My dad rents a beach house every other year so we can all spend a week together. I sat on the deck that overlooked the ocean, writing a story about a pretty awful family, after I’d spent the day hanging out by the pool with my actual family that I love. 

Writing has always been a part of my life and at nearly every major milestone, my dad has been the person I’ve turned to for advice and the person who encouraged me to pursue it. “I’m going to major in writing because I am dumb and don’t understand money.” “Do it, do what you love.” “I’m going to move to California to be an unpaid intern for an indie publishing company, with no real plan” “Do it, go, you have to go do that.”  

There are other things in the book that could be misconstrued as autobiographical, and I don’t care about those too much. I have a great life, writing is responsible for almost all of it, and I wouldn’t have pursued it if my dad hadn’t made me believe that it was something I should do.  

Thanks, Dad.  

Spring – 2020

Hi. Happy Spring. Happy Terrifying Spring 2020. 

I am writing this from my living room, which is mostly in the woods, with very few neighbors and it’s about as good a scenario I could hope for at the moment. I’ve hooked up my laptop to my television so I can write from my couch. My dog is asleep, and just woke up slightly from his nap, scooched closer to me so he could put his nose on my leg, and fell back asleep. What a good boy. Amanda is in her office on a work call, she works for a company that does live yoga via an app, and they’ve been very busy. It’s a good app, you should check it out. They’re mostly doing free classes at the moment, in light of the…thing.

A quick book update, as there is nothing else more important going on:

I spoke with the editor and publisher of the book a few weeks ago. I should have the first round of edits in-hand any day now, I hope. They’re late on the edits. I’m big on deadlines and don’t like it when people miss deadlines and am trying to not be a pain in the ass about it. Not sure how good of a job I’m doing, plus there’s a pandemic, so people might have more important things going on. But, things are moving along, slowly but surely. There’s a contract on its way, someone is working on book covers, I’m supposed to be planning a book launch party if there are such things when this is all over with. 

I guess it’s hard to talk about anything without talking about the pandemic. I like the word pandemic. It has the correct gravity but is still pleasant to say. It’s somehow soothing in its broad characterization, like we know enough about the situation to have a word for it. We have a bucket for this madness, it is called ‘pandemic’. It is not so unknown that we do not have a word, and having, knowing and using that word is somehow calming to me. 

—-

There’s a lot going on, things that I feel like I could scream about forever. But I’m exhausted and there’s enough of that already. I woke up at 3:30am last night for no reason, panicked, and was up until about 5am reading articles until my phone died. I didn’t learn anything. I started another draft of this post on the 14th, and held off because I figured the world would be dramatically different by the time the first day of spring hit, and I was right about that, but I still don’t feel like anyone has any idea what’s going on. 

So far I’m having the same experience as most people, and that’s good, we’re not leaving the house except to run or walk the dog. Ordering all our groceries in, trying different apps to stay connected, etc. and I’m in a lucky position that I have a happy home life and genuinely like being here. It feels good to be here. Like life. 

I watched a video today of a drive-through testing site. A woman pulls up to a tent and rolls down her window. A very pleasant man in an outbreak suit gives her instructions, he’s speaking loudly so she can hear him through the plastic helmet, she complies, then he sticks a qtip about six inches into her nose, both sides, she allows this to happen, is pleasant about the discomfort, he hands her a packet of information, is pleasant, and then she rubs her eyes to clear the tears generated from the nasal probe, and she pulls off. 

I’m glad this is happening, and the lack of available tests is one of the most profound failures I’ve ever witnessed in my life, and I’m happy testing centers are starting to open, but I watched that video and couldn’t help but notice how nice they were, how calm it was, and normal. It felt normal, and that’s worrying me as much as anything else. 

The last few years have been marked by a continual normalization of insane and objectively evil behavior, and a lot of that always feels foreign and our little internet silos can make it seem like we’re the only rational ones, but something about watching that woman get that thing shoved up her nose, and nobody taking a moment to say “this is fucking insane, isn’t this fucking insane, can we say very quickly, how fucking crazy this is, what a dystopian nightmare, here in the parking lot of the shuttered sports complex?” 

It’s good to be calm in times like these, and that woman was not having a normal moment, and she is freaked out to high heaven, and had the clarity of mind to film it so other people wouldn’t be afraid, my focus isn’t on her, it’s on me, on my watching it and thinking “oh, good, seems like there’s a routine to it.” 

I was given a hard time working from home last week, I did it anyway because it was the right thing to do, but the management at my company didn’t like that people were taking things into their own hands, because it wasn’t normal. Taking our own health into account wasn’t normal behavior. I sit in a block of cubes, most of the people around me are older or immunocompromised. I like these people. I don’t want to get the disease and bring it home to my wife, but I also didn’t want to make everyone sick and accidentally kill my coworkers. But I didn’t run it by HR, so my behavior was outside of the normal processes, and it might get me fired if we open the office again. 

Our ability to just instantly accept behavior that has process as normal is good, it’s how our brains developed, it’s how we identified which plants were poisonous and let us navigate by the stars, and all the amazing things that we do is, on some level, an identification and attention to order and patterns, but it’s not what being a human is, and that’s maybe what’s making me worried. That our reliance on superficial order is coming to light over the last few years, and now, with this mess, that we’ll forget some of the broader sense of humanity in the comforting order of process and procedure. Last week there were jokes about it just taking the older people – these jokes were made by older people, tongue in cheek, but again, as long as there’s an order to it, there’s some metric by which it can be understood, is somehow calming and reductive. 

I don’t know what I’m saying at this point, I’m just typing. 

I got an email this morning from the president of our company, assuring everyone that we will still serve our customers. Concern for our general health was in there also, but it was after a few sections of discussing the process by which we were cleaning the office, the steps we were taking to keep things clean. I work for an engineering company, so some of that is expected, but it was almost entirely devoid of “Hey, in the not too distant future a man in a space suit is going to shove a qtip further up your nose than you would think possible, so if you some time throughout the day to just to scream at the top of your lungs or stare unblinking into your computer screen but not actually do any work- it’s cool, we get it.” 

Our desire for this to be normal is frightening. I don’t like the Keep Calm and Carry On bullshit. Carry on, sure, because it’s all you can really do. Time moves forward, and do your best to keep calm because it’s unhealthy to be stressed. But if you need to scream into a pillow for an hour every afternoon, by all means. Pretending this is normal is unhealthy, this is bad and it should be – and could have been – better, if we hadn’t tried to maintain the order of what is normal, to keep the markets just so, or to keep x business open for whatever stupid and counter productive reason, or so used to everything in this country being such a half-assed scam, because we’ve just come to expect that rich people will do shitty evil things for money, and who could blame them, that’s what they’re supposed to do. The natural order of things

Again, I’m tired. I’m not sure how cohesive this is. I’m just yelling. But in the deluge of “here are some fun things to do at home” articles, I feel like there’s not a lot of space to just be a human being who is freaked out about the whole thing. So this is that, if you need it. After freakouts, feel free to go get caught up on Better Call Saul or whatever the fuck. 

This is an insane time. It’s good to feel that it’s an insane time. Distract yourself as much as possible, stay safe, stay healthy, and don’t add to your stress levels by fighting off how insane this has been. I think that’s the message I’m going for. I don’t know. Do your best. Wash your hands. Good luck with the qtip thing. It seems like something out of a movie, but it’s not, it’s a real guy in a real outbreak suit and your real nose. What the fuck. What the fuck. What the fuck. 

Winter – 2019

Hi. This is late again. It’ll probably always be late. I know nobody cares but I like a deadline.

This is a new website. I decided to leave tinyletter because I feel like I have ten outlets spread around the internet (tumblr, medium, blogger, tinyletter, eight other wordpress sites, etc.) and mostly each one is an excuse to bury my writing somewhere, then wonder why nobody looks at it. This’ll just be the place I keep things from now on.


The original idea behind the TinyLetter was to post updates about my writing life, as I’d decided to spend more time submitting my work to writing outlets. That didn’t really pan out; I only submitted eight times last year. Two are still pending and one is being published in the next Hong Kong Review. This year, I really do plan on submitting more as I need to generate more work to figure out what I’m doing next.

But apart from the website, here’s what’s new: I won the International 3-Day Novel Writing Contest. It’s not posted on the site for whatever reason, the announcement is over on their Facebook page.

It’s been interesting, I had to sort out how I felt about it. The contest wasn’t very well run, I’m not going to get into all the details, but it was (and still is) kind of a mess.

But that aside, I think no matter what happens next, the contest experience been good for me. I make writing more of a problem than it needs to be, I always assume I am not any good at it, give up on projects too easily, hide my writing in ten different places all over the internet so nobody can read it, but there’s been no real support of the idea that I’m no good at this outside of my own head. The contest, silly as it is, poorly run as it was, and whatever else it may be, is maybe, finally, the end of that thinking. It’s not even thinking, just very boring fear of failure bullshit, which as I inch towards 40 becomes increasingly more exhausting. Last year’s winner is a PhD in Creative Writing. I’m fine. Enough already.


Publishing a book has always been the goal. Since I was a kid. My mom was a big reader and I remember her saying something like “Publishing a book is probably the most impressive thing a person could do” and I latched onto it, and it’s been there since. I was six or seven.

This is a goofy contest, and it’s not exactly the same as a full, complete work, shopped to agents, etc. But having something published is suddenly very close, it’s on the horizon, something I’m about to accomplish. And with it on the horizon, an interesting conversation I got to have with myself while walking the dog was: Now that I’ve accomplished what I set out to accomplish, do I still want to do this?

It feels like a natural breaking point. I could publish my little novella that’s takes its cues from a lot of my mental health weirdness, some unhappier bits of my past, and just a big mixing bowl of lots of things I’ve spent years thinking about, purged onto page in a shitty hotel over a long weekend, and be done with writing for good and feel fine about it.

My commitment to writing is complete. Mission accomplished. I can decide to be someone else now. I can take up piano, or sculpting, or ballet, or focus on my career or do any number of a thousand other things before we run out of water. And it was nice to spend an afternoon giving that real consideration and decide to choose writing again, to think, no, this is just what I do, I like it, I am good at it, it would be OK now for me to be free of it, but I don’t want to. It’s good to be this.


The excitement about that decision was probably more intense than winning the contest. “Oh my god, I can work on something else now.” Pure joy.

I probably won’t do another writing contest, I couldn’t focus on anything while it was in the air, though it’s probably good practice for the eventual circulating of a novel draft to agents and publishers. I can be a little obsessive and I obsessed over the contest, because if I won, I was done, if I lost, I wasn’t, and working on it felt like it would eventually bite me in the ass and it has a little bit. The novella is probably fifty pages longer than it was when it was an entry, but they’ll probably only publish the entry. Not wasted time exactly, but I wish I could have detatched a bit more and worked on something else. I am going to try to be better about keeping different projects in the air.

The next book. Having written a novella in three days that’s not as bad as you’d expect it to be, I’m looking forward to focusing on something longer form again. I don’t know what that is yet, but I am looking forward to figuring it out. I’m going to be spending the next few months working on short stories to find an idea that grabs me and pulls me along. I also want to submit more regularly so I have an excuse to draw more thumbnails to use over on the writing page.


I had other things to say but I forget what they were now. Please buy fifty copies of the book whenever it arrives. I don’t know when that will be.

Have a nice winter.