Resolution Number Nine Number Two

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I’ve decided to tackle a New Year’s Resolution that is going to challenge me, but if it works out, will reward me immeasurably. This is a pretty big deal, and, I have to say, for a Resolution, it’s a good one.  

But yesterday, I had a thought. It flashed in my head and left an image there that I couldn’t shake, like when you look into a bright light and there’s that purple blob. And that purple blob is this: in addition to trying to find an agent for my novel, Gary, I’m going to come up with a pitch for a television show, and I’m going to pitch it to someone.  

I know even less about pitching a TV show than I know about finding an agent, which is to say I know nothing. But I know this: I have a really good idea, and I just need to communicate it in the language of entertainment execs (which is a strange, foreign language that even Google Translate won’t dare).  

The worst thing that will happen is that neither agents nor execs are interested, and I will be in the same position at the end of 2020 that I was in at the end of 2019, so there’s really no reason for me not to try. 

If you pray, pray for my success. If you do blessings, bless me. If you cast spells, I need one. If you do none of those things, at least cheer me along as I jog by, winded and aching. Between two jobs, I’m going to be super-busy in 2020, and your support will mean the world to me. 

Resolution Number Nine

The secret to my newfound contentment is that I don’t indulge in things that make me unhappy. This is why I don’t like to go to parties and why I avoid the news (while still staying informed). Some might consider this the coward’s way out. You’re supposed to face your fears, and allegedly only good will come of it. In my experience, this is not the case. Parties bore me and make me uncomfortable. The news fills me with rage. The only true happiness can be found on the path of denial. But the fact is, even this way, I have plenty of adventures and enriching experiences. I’ve never been down this street before? Let’s find out what’s there. A coffee shop I hadn’t noticed before? Let’s get a latte. I’ve never written a novel before (on purpose)? Let me give it a shot. A friend I’ve been estranged from for two years in a city I barely know where it’s impossible to find a job? I guess I’d better be her roommate.  

I don’t necessarily play it safe, but I’m not going to go endure something awful if there’s no reward behind it. 

That said, my New Year’s Resolution is to do a very specific thing that is going to make me miserable, and I’m reasonably certain I’m not going to get anything positive out of it. I’m doing it because I, in this case, deserve to be successful, even if it doesn’t work out that way. 

In 2020–I’m giving myself one year—I’m going to make every attempt to get an agent and traditionally publish my novel, Gary, which I finished writing at the end of November. If I do say so myself, my first drafts are like most people’s second drafts, so I need just a little polishing, some reinforcement of certain themes, until it’s done. I’ve already spoken to a friend who has a background in publishing about my query letter, so I worked on that over the Christmas holiday. I’m giving myself one year. If, by the end of the year, I’ve had nary a nibble, I give myself permission to quit (or continue, depending on how I’m feeling next December). 

I hate rejection. I shouldn’t take it personally. An agent isn’t rejecting me because they think I’m bad, they’re rejecting me because they can’t envision me being a bestseller. I don’t have the name recognition of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or Stephen King’s son. This won’t be a good Netflix series. (Gary is written in such a way that it can only ever be a novel.) But I still do take it personally. I spent years trying to get someone to consider my first novel, The Long Trip, and no one would. After a while, I felt my soul start to shrivel up and my stomach twist in nasty ways. After sixty rejections, I had to quit. I have a thin skin, what can I say?  

I tell you all this so you know what a big deal this is for me. This is going to hurt, so, so bad. But if, by some slight glimmer of a snowball’s chance, it pays off …  

Myth Understandings

I’ve been thinking about this lately. Who were the Founding Fathers? Were they philosophers and heroes who stood up to the tyranny of King George III and created a form of government that had never been seen before and enshrined the rights of their citizens to be protected from their own leaders? Or were they a bunch of obscenely wealthy businessmen and slave-owners who were so entitled that they felt like the law didn’t apply to them, and they crafted a system of government that protected the rich from the votes of the common people? Can we really know for sure? 

Let’s look at a more recent myth. Was Ronald Reagan a brave, powerful communicator whose confidence and good nature brought an end to the Cold War and ushered in a decade of prosperity, optimism, and catchy music? Or was he an actor who forgot he wasn’t a real cowboy who brought us to the brink of nuclear war while turning his back on an epidemic and setting in motion a series of financial, social, and governmental philosophies that have led to the collapse of the American middle class? Can he be both? 

Let’s dig deep. Real deep. Is Jesus the literal son of God who came to the Earth to perform miracles and update his father’s laws and to die as part of a human sacrifice designed to free mankind from the shackles of the first sin? Or was he Yeshua, a carpenter and rabbi who embarrassed the other rabbis and was executed for being a nuisance to the provisional Roman government, and may or may not have actually existed? 

I ask myself these questions a lot. Was John Lennon a musical genius and a disciple of peace and love for all humankind? Or was he a monster who beat and imprisoned his wife? Was John F. Kennedy the human embodiment of hope? Or was he a frat-boy womanizer? Is Joss Whedon the creator and soul of a feminist icon? Or is he a misogynist? I know what the facts say. I know what people believe. So what’s true? 

I guess it’s all a matter of faith. 

And a Happy Jew Year

While I lived in New York, I never had family or girlfriends in town for Christmas, but I always had a wonderful time. I usually started out December 25 by braving the bitter, slushy cold to go to a movie with my friend Joshua, and from there we would go out for a Chinese lunch. In Chinatown. Where they didn’t serve chicken with broccoli as much as things that were reminiscent of that racist dining scene in Temple of Doom. From there it was off to The New York Post, where somebody had to put out the December 26 edition, and the job fell to the Jews like Copy Chief Barry and those of us without presents under the tree. They always served us a buffet of turkey and stuffing as a reward for missing our holiday (we weren’t really missing anything, though) while we rode out probably the least eventful news day of the year.  

I love my family, and I love the time we spent together watching movies in front of a roaring fire, wondering what we were going to do with all this wrapping paper, but for me, my real nostalgia will always be for Christmas in New York. 

The Left Stuff

This was recently brought to my attention, and it’s brilliant in its simplicity. If you have a difficult time understanding white, male, hetero, cis privilege, i.e. if you think that your life has been challenging even by virtue of being white or male or straight, and you’ve had to work hard for everything you have, and you kind of resent being told that you have it easier than women or people of color and that you should feel bad for being born white, male, straight, and into the right gender, then think about this.  

The Western world is righthanded. The mouse on your computer, the layout of your car (in most countries), the set-up of your desks—at work and at school, scissors, and even the act of writing itself, is for righthanded people. You don’t even realize it. But try being lefthanded. You have to buy separate scissors, or you have to go into your computer preferences and change the set-up of your mouse, or you have to adjust to operating from a different side of your body. Have you ever seen a lefty write? They have to contort their arms around the paper so as to make the ink go the right way without smearing it.  

Being righthanded doesn’t make you better, and it doesn’t mean everything is handed to you, and you’re not a bad person for being a righty. But ask any lefty, your life is actually a little easier because society is constructed for you, and not them. A lefthanded desk or scissors isn’t any kind of special privilege that takes away something from righties, it’s just an attempt to make their lives a little more normal than they currently are.  

This applies to different races, genders, and sexualities.  

SJWs, of which I know many, pass this onto your friends who are having a hard time with the concept. It might help them understand. 

The Hell with It

Today, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. is our work Holiday Party. Those of you who have read Jeremiah’s Inferno will know that this is the Seventh Circle of Hell, below Standing in Line and one above Stuck in Traffic. 

For those not in the know, the Circles of Hell are as follows:  

1. Four-Year-Old Explaining the Plot of their Favorite Anime;  

2. First Dates;  

3. Holding in a Fart for a Long Elevator Ride;  

4. Pickles and Mushrooms;  

5. Exercising;  

6. Standing in Line;  

7. Work Holiday Parties;  

8. Stuck in Traffic;  

9. Discussing Politics with my Former Best Friend from High School. 

Check It Out

For most of my three-year run at The Container Store in Reston, they made me a register jockey, which I came to resent. This was mostly because it was a pretty boring job most of the time, since you were chained to a small area, and there wasn’t much to do when the customers weren’t around. Also, there was this strong, pushy emphasis on signing people up for the Rewards Program that stressed me out even though I was pretty good at it. And mostly, it’s really draining to interact with that many people every single day. When I trained to be an Order Processor, I found a job that I really liked, and it drastically reduced the amount of time I spent up front, cashing people out. And later, when I moved to Washington, DC, they signed me on to pretty much be exclusively an Order Processor, which I was thrilled by.  

But occasionally, about once a month, I have to do a shift at the register. And I’ve found that I kind of like it. At this store, business is pretty steady, so I’ll show up, sign onto the computer at 6:00, and within what feels like a half an hour, they’re making the announcement that the store will be closing in a few minutes. Since I have stopped caring about the Rewards Program, there’s no pressure, and I still do fine signing people up. But mostly, what I’ve found is that it enables me to have conversations with people, and I don’t have to do the work associated with that. Interacting with people is exhausting, but I can make people laugh, I can chat about the weather, and I can repeat the same dumb jokes, over and over again because they’re going to be gone in less than five minutes and I’m going to have someone new replace them immediately.  

Before a Register shift would drain me, but these days, it charges me up a little. Please don’t tell my bosses that, though, because it only works when it’s three hours every four weeks. Doing it more than that will take the shine right off of it. 

The Night the Lights Went Out

I just had a random flashback. This happened during the great Eastern Seaboard Blackout of August 2003, and the lights had just gone out. They dismissed us from work because, really, what was the point in otherwise? I knew that I was not getting back home without electricity, so I did the only thing I could: I stopped in a bar and proceeded to give my best effort to keep their beer from getting warm. After I did all I could, I headed out, and through a series of coincidences and good timing, I ended up on the world’s most expensive ferry to Jersey City, and from there hopped on a bus home.

When I arrived, I found my upstairs neighbor and my roommate (the normal one, not the crazy one) smoking cigars on my front stoop. My upstairs neighbor asked me what I did when the lights went out, and I told him that I stopped for a drink. My roommate handed him five dollars because my upstairs neighbor was so sure that the first thing I would do in this situation would be to find alcohol that he wagered money on it.

That’s who I was back then.

Three Hundred Sixty-Five

I’ve tried putting it out of my head. I’ve grown a lot since then. I’ve lived a pretty exciting life in the past year. I’ve reconnected with of people, I’ve had a lot of laughs, I’ve been really honest with myself and others. I’ve had a number of milestones on my journey to reflect, and I don’t need another one. But this date is there, it’s seared into my mind, it’s forever a part of me. 

It was a little after 4:00 in the afternoon a year ago today that Kate told me she was divorcing me, and that I had two days to move out, and then walked out of the room with no explanation, never to be seen again. About an hour and a half after that, I had to sit with my General Manager at the break room at work and try to explain what happened when I still wasn’t sure what happened. She was the first person I told. A year ago Monday, I pet two cats I’d snuggled with for fourteen years for the last time, ever. That morning, I left my home and my life, and no one would tell me why. 

I have a new home now. I have a new life. I’m happy. But this day …  

After everything, I didn’t expect it to still hurt. 

Blue State Blues

Something to keep in mind for 2020 as it starts to get ugly out there. Donald Trump didn’t win the White House by convincing the majority of America to like him. He did it by convincing the majority of America to be so disgusted with Hillary Clinton that they stayed home. He accomplished this by manipulating the right-wing media and the mainstream media, getting a little bit help from the Russians, and getting a lot of help from Democrats. People don’t remember this, and I’m anticipating some of my friends to comment on this post telling me otherwise, but five years ago, Hillary Clinton was a reasonably popular public figure. She wasn’t toxic, and she was a sure bet for the presidency. One primary and several exaggerated scandals later, she’s the least favorite politician in America.  

This tactic worked in the low-turnout elections in 2000 and 2004, when two decent statesmen were so dragged through the mud that the public, who didn’t really like George W. Bush, were even less sure about those guys. The Trump campaign took this and elevated it to a grand guignol, and they’re on track to do it again. Try going onto a forum manned by Democrats and mentioning a candidate’s name and see how fast and furious the attacks will come. Bernie’s washed up and crazy. Biden is a clueless Boomer. Mayor Pete is an evil capitalist. Warren is condescending. A Democrat can, right off the bat, tell you five things they hate about the other candidate, but they can tell you may be one or two things they love about theirs.  

Voting not-Trump isn’t going to win the election. It didn’t work in 2016, just like not-Bush didn’t work in 2004. What worked in 2008 and 2012 is that we had a candidate who, despite his flaws, we liked enough to unite behind. The only candidate who has people united behind him is Trump.  

I don’t know what the solution is. The allegations against Buttigieg are awfully troubling, almost as much so as the verbal diarrhea that comes out of Joe Biden’s mouth. I don’t trust Sanders, and his followers are really off-putting. The one I’m behind is Warren, but anyone will tell you they have “problems” with Warren (I haven’t been able to get people to tell me what those problems are), and according to the Bernie people, her health care plan will effectively torpedo any chance for us to ever have single-payer. Democrats are amazing about finding flaws in their own people.