Summer – 2020


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.


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.  


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.