A Positive Spin

I think I’m making a huge mistake, narratively, in my novel, but I’m not sure I want to fix it. Basically, the law and order principal of my heroine’s high school asks her to trust her (the principal) with the kind of secret that could end the heroine’s life at that school if it gets out. This would be the perfect opportunity for betrayal and creating an impossible social situation and the kind of chaos that my stories thrive on.

But I don’t do that. The principal keeps her word. The secret is safe.

Right now, I severely distrust authority. From the top to the bottom, I don’t believe that authority, in general, has my best interests at heart. I saw my high school principals, in one way or another, betray the students they were supposed to protect. One went to prison for it. And yet I don’t want to teach my heroine the same lesson I learned. Her life is hard enough as it is. I want her to be able to trust someone in power.

As a weaver of plots, I chose the boring path, the overly optimistic one. This isn’t Game of Thrones—this is a YA novel about a teenage witch. Let me have a little light.

Dragging Your Feet Down Memory Lane

I just found out that they’re reviving Punky Brewster.

Dear Nostalgia,

ENOUGH. We get it. Gen-X loves the entertainment from we were kids. We got it when you revived Saved by the Bell for the twelfth time. We got it when you dropped the trailer for Bill & Ted 3. We get it. Please, can you stop?

Sincerely,

Jeremiah Murphy

Cancel, Check

I’m out of the loop, so I just found out about all of the accusations from women aimed at Warren Ellis.

To say that this is disappointing is an understatement. Warren Ellis is one of my favorite writers of all time–I think the man is a certified genius at creating comics, as well as his second life as a cartoon scriptwriter. I hardly read comics anymore, but I make sure to pick up whatever Mr. Ellis has dropped on the shelf that week, even when it’s a (ugh) Batman book. I recently dropped over $100 to read the entirety of Transmetropolitan, his opus.

To be fair, he hasn’t been accused of doing anything illegal, such as sexual assault. What he’s accused of is, in general, being a creep, and leveraging his status as king-and-queenmaker to royally mess with some very vulnerable young women with aspirations in the comics industry. This is not okay.

Am I surprised by this? Not really. He’s always had the kind of attitude you can imagine a creep displaying. But should he be cancelled? I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do. This is all fresh to me.

Ugh! Why are men with power the worst?

Desert Flora Through Time and Space

One of my earliest memories is when I was a really, really young child, and I stumbled on my dad watching Doctor Who for the first time. The image seared into my brain was a man with brown, curly hair and a large, red scarf, made up to look like a cactus, stumbling around. Scared the living crap out of me.

Almost forty years later, I’m watching “Meglos” again, and two things occur to me. One is that the model work on the pirates’ spaceship was outstanding, and I have no idea how they did it at that budget.

More importantly, in the eighties, most movie and TV producers would look at a script and say, “Put our lead actor in full cactus makeup? That would be ridiculous! Not on my watch!” But Doctor Who producers read the script and said, “Tom Baker as a cactus? That would be ridiculous! I don’t care what it takes, make it happen!”

And that’s why I will always love Doctor Who best.

The Sort of Gift

I just awoke to a delightful birthday surprise. In this apartment, our packages come after my bedtime, so the best time to check for them is first thing in the morning. What I found was a box from Kate Schroeder. Apparently, she’d found a photo album that belonged to me, and rather than throw it away, she shipped it over here. I wasn’t sure which photo album this was, but when I opened the box this morning, I found a book full of vintage photos of myself and my family going all the way back to the 1970s. I remember this book from when it was given to me by my parents back when I lived in New York. It was a connection to my past that I’d never really had, and I can’t believe how close I almost came to losing it forever. (I’d honestly thought I had it in my mementos roughneck. Oops!) This was a kind, thoughtful gesture by Kate that I will treasure.

She charged me for postage because she’s Kate, but still, she got it back in my hands.

An Excerpt

Actual dialogue from meeting my downstairs neighbor for the first time:

HER: … because I grew up in the Southwest.

ME: Where in the Southwest did you grow up?

HER: Well, New Mexico.

ME: Where in New Mexico?

HER: I tell people Albuquerque because that’s a place they’ve heard of, but it’s actually not very close to Albuquerque.

ME: Oh, where’s that? I might have heard of it.

HER: I was born in Gallup.

ME: Oh.

HER: It’s actually—

ME: I was raised in Gallup.

HER: What?!

Looking back, I didn’t ask her enough questions about it, and seeing as I’ve lived here for almost nine months and had only seen her once through the window, I probably won’t get the chance. But hey, pretty wild, right?

Lost Friends

I was poking through my laptop this morning, and I found this. Shortly before I left home to begin my new life, our baby Andrew was not doing so hot. I had sat down at a café and written him an obituary the day I thought we were going to put him to sleep, but that day the vet had an idea for a new painkiller that really rejuvenated him. But the vet also said not to bring him back until the last time because he was old and frail. This was about a month before the divorce papers were handed to me. My last request of Kate was that she tell me when Andrew left our world, but the only communication I’ve had with her this past year and a half were about taxes. The fact is, Andrew is most definitely dead, and I don’t know when it happened or how it happened. Did Kate hold him in the vet’s office while he went to sleep forever, or did he just curl up in a sunbeam and never wake up? Andrew was my friend for fourteen years, and it’s past time to memorialize him.

Andrew Fuzzbutt Schroeder

January 2000 to ?

Andrew has never been much of a lap cat, so when, a few months ago, he started crawling on my chest and taking residence, thoroughly dislodging me from whatever I’d been doing, I was thrilled. It’s been brought to my attention, given his health, that he may have been coming to me for comfort. And so that leads to the big conflict—can I enjoy the memories of him cuddling with me, purring away, when it was a symptom of discomfort?

It’s a smaller version of the bigger conflict—can I, in good conscience, fight tooth and nail to keep this cat alive when he’s got a tumor eating him from the inside out, when the only humane thing to do is put him to sleep? It’s me being selfish, and I don’t want to be a selfish person. But how am I supposed to live without him?

I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard a million times the tale of how he was adopted. Kate had gone to the shelter on a mission for a black cat she could name Magik. While standing in front of the cages, she felt something tugging on her leg, and so she looked down to see a little gray fluffball whose name was Andrew. When she didn’t pay sufficient attention to him, he reached through the bars, opened the latch of his cage, and took off. She said, “I’ll take that one.”

One should never adopt smart pets, particularly cats, because they get bored. Andrew cut a path of destruction across the house, and, as an athletic leaper, he could get anywhere he wanted. Kate was forced to give him a middle name so she could yell at him like a parent when he misbehaved (“Andrew Fuzzbutt Schroeder, you stop that!”). And yet he was cute, the cutest in the world, an observation based on strict scientific principles, so one look with his big yellow eyes could disarm your rage. Based on his intelligence and vertical reach, as well as the way he sleeps, Kate has concluded that he’s not really a cat, but rather a dragon disguised as a cat. I’ve seen nothing that contradicts this.

I moved in four years after she found him, and I became primary caretaker of the cats, feeding them and cleaning their litter. Andrew recognized that, and he respected me, but we never bonded like he and Kate did. But I love him all the same. That’s why it’s been so painful watching him studying countertops as if he were going to jump on them, but being too weak or too hurting to make it. He used to be the most gluttonous of the cats, sometimes eating out of the scoop as I distributed the dry food, but lately, I’ve been rejoicing whenever I see him eat.

The fact is, it was time for Andrew to retire (that’s my euphemism; I like it, and I’m keeping it), and no amount of love from me was going to stop that. And so he did.

He was my friend. I’m going to miss him. I’m lucky I have two more little friends to help me through this.

A Hazy Shade of Back When

There was one thing I could say about my time in high school, college, and my days in New York: I was pretty miserable through a lot of it. I was frequently anxious and frequently depressed, and I imagine that being my friend or lover was a major challenge. But here’s the thing about that. I can’t remember why. I mean, I know now that it was my bipolar disorder getting me on downswings, but the individual things that were depressing me or causing me anxiety are a mystery to me. I know that I constantly wanted to be in a relationship with a woman, and I was broke, but was that it?

I guess I’m wearing a thick pair of rose-colored glasses about the past, because I remember when it went well. I recall the parties and the hanging out and the getting to know people and the long walks and the joy of exploring the world. What keeps these glasses from becoming delusional, however, is that I am well aware of how unhappy I was at the time. I don’t want to go live in the past because the peace I feel in the present from being myself and being by myself is probably my greatest achievement.

It’s funny, though, the selective editing in my head. I may not have fully enjoyed my life at the time, but I fully enjoy my history now.

The Ghost of Anniversaries Past

I said I wasn’t going to spend any extra time thinking about this day, but I can’t seem to ignore it. I’m doing so well. I’m happy, and, while I’m not exactly eating healthily, I am mostly healthy. I’ve written five and almost finished with a sixth novel in the intervening year. I have a real, full-time job now that has promised me they’re not going to lay me off in the midst of the pandemic. I’m financially doing extremely well, and I’m making plans to take at least one vacation once the crisis has passed. The last year has been good to me.

It’s been fifteen years since April 30 has simply been the last day of the month. And what I’m feeling now is not nostalgia for the marriage. I do feel that sometimes, and it comes and goes like a song that gets stuck in your head. What I’m feeling is nostalgia for this day meaning something. It was a day when my wife and I would have a nice dinner together (usually steak because she’s a Nebraska girl), and I would compose a Facebook post that summed up where I was in the relationship. Sometimes she’d take the day off, but mostly she didn’t (she took all of the pagan holidays off, and I think she didn’t want to push it). I’d tease her about all the times she told people that our anniversary was April 31 (i.e. the last day of April). It was a low-key holiday, and I’m programmed to recognize it when it comes up.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it. My predictions last year that I would by now haven’t proven true. Maybe I’ll just defy what I’m supposed to do and recognize the day as a kind of trophy to the fact that I was married once, for a really long time, and I’m the man I am today because of it. That I can remember that part of my life without bitterness or longing, but as a part of me, as much a part of me as my six years in New York or my four years in college or my two years in Qatar or my ten years with an on-again-off-again drinking problem.

It’s who I was. It’s who I am.