Thursday, December 27, 2012

Helvetica Sans Pretense

It's that time of year again, when Portland parents toss their unfortunate children into the remains of a 1985 Chevy Nova at 7AM and risk the lives of everyone within a 50 mile radius to be able to skid around the curves of drive thru lanes up and down Meridian Street.

Oddly enough, despite my track record of complaining about this every year as though it will change anything, I am not here to discuss the importance of not slamming into a school bus at 500 miles per hour in a beaten up Oldsmobile Bravada with a car full of illegitimate children in a freak snow storm.

I am here to announce some things about my writing. I can hear all your boners sprouting. Writing is such an exciting topic for non-writers, I know. Bear with me, because I promise this will be worth reading.

I have news. Since Antioch is finished now, save for editing, I have begun trying to decide on a typeface to use, as it currently rests in whatever the default is on whatever computer I happen to use (I have 4, because I am an asshole).

Now before you all crucify me for perceived future mistakes, I will let you know that Helvetica is one of my top choices, but in order to use it I will have to pay Adobe $30. Of course, this is not a bad price compared to another font I was looking at until I saw the price tag: $500 for a set of 4 font sets.

Oh, no. Now that I've revealed that I plan to pay for the ability to use a font that is literally everywhere, I expect to hear things like “Why don't you torrent it?” Or even better, from Mac owners: “My computer comes with it. Doesn't yours?” I suppose I could use someone's mac to put Antioch into PDF format, yes. I suppose I could also torrent it. First of all, though, I want to own the right to use whatever font I choose for whatever purpose I see fit without the possibility of legal action being smashed up my ass. Also, alternatives to Helvetica are either also paid (Nimbus Sans, $20), or so rough on screen that they aren't totally viable (Helios). Secondly, free versions of Helvetica are often some other font, lacking that clever little retro capital R that everyone adores.

That being said, I have also considered that clever Helvetica imposter known as Arial.

I said it, and I have no regrets.

ARIAL, you bitches. ARIAL.

Hark, I hear the small sounds of protest beginning.

Do you hear that? It's the sound of lensless glasses melting in the heat of self-important rage. It's the sound of a billion cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon upending from the force of the anger and chaos I just unleashed by saying that hated font's name. Starbucks and Joanne's just burst into ironic flames. Suddenly, Goodwill stores across the nation are flooded with acid wash jeans!


Somewhere, a Toyota Prius is weeping. Somewhere, IKEA and Whole Foods have been converted to Wal-mart and Save-A-Lot. Somewhere, the only place one can get iced coffee is a McDonald's filled with screaming demon children. It's a horrible place where “Mocha” and “latte” are never the same drink, and “large” is a real size.

Oh, the humanity!

We'll all be overrun by the bad parts of the 1980s and 1990s. Full House and Matlock will be on every channel, and we'll all wake up to find that we've been sporting mullets for years.

All because I used Arial.

A bit dramatic, sure, but that's the culture we live in.

I may do it just to watch the world destroy itself, humanity withering to little more than nomadic tribes warring and murdering over the last MacBook on Earth, scrambling for black rimmed glasses and hording typewriters in the corners of ruined hotel rooms.

We all think we're writers, don't we? I certainly think I am.

The truth is, the more people flip out about what font a writer publishes in, the more ridiculous the whole affair becomes. I mean, there are some obvious no-nos. Publishing a research paper in Comic Sans, for instance. Using Brush Script for a road sign.

I have seen some silly slanderfests over the use of Arial as opposed to Helvetica. While the more educated of us may consider Arialists to be “amateurish” and “careless” in their font choices, I ask them to bear this in mind: the font is secondary to the story, providing it isn't something distracting and annoying. Arial is only distracting to people who buy their food at Whole Foods and their clothes at Goodwill. The general public will not know the difference.

Granted, I may end up choosing Helvetica because it is one of the most readable fonts, and can be easily used for large print text because of this, but Arial is equally suited for this, and it's technically free. No licenses to buy in order to use Arial.

One can fuss about fonts used, or one can write a story that transcends fonts. Some people can do both, but most people just criticize other people's font choices.

I suppose that's the condition of my generation, and the next generation that is starting to emerge in our shit-filled wake: that form is much more important that function. It's evident in the sheer number of horrifically written fiction being sold, even by big publishing houses. (Our generation is also the one that made using an apostrophe and an “s” to make something plural the norm, which throws me into a similar homocidal PBR rage every time I see it on a billboard or on TV. Bad grammar is bad grammar, no matter how accepted it is.)

Fellow indie authors, we need to put down our god damned messenger bags and write something that can dispell this image, because I'm afraid that I'm decades away from writing anything life-altering. I have readers, sure, and I've actually enjoyed a lot of success when compared to the lame, weak amount of marketing I've actually done, but some of us are just dellusional, writing bullshit that no one will ever relate to or be moved by just so we can slam it into a respectable font.

We are the generation of pretty fonts, and they aren't even ours. Our parents and grandparents made them. We've made some interesting mutations, but we've neglected to do the one thing that previous generations DID do, which is to write something groundbreaking. We need to write something that will be anthologized for decades after our death.

The font should be just as transparent as the writing style. Readers don't ordinarily pick up a book to admire the font or be awed by a clever passage or two, they want substance. They want to be entertained and educated.

This isn't necessarily a dig at typographers, because typography is the foundation of writing. Typographic art also happens to be my favorite kind of art, and I plan to have a house filled with it one day. I am targeting the hordes of unmotivated, overeducated fools who think that making a pretty font based on Helvetica makes one a writer.

The definition of writer is clearly different depending on the person. I think we've lost sight of what the focus ought to be if you call yourself a writer. The focus, as I see it, is expression first. Second, to make reading the norm again, and to make it accessible to everyone. The focus next is to trim the fat. Make every word do something. Nothing turns modern readers off more than 7 pages of no action. I suppose this can be attributed to the culture of TV saturation, but that's all the more reason to press on and adapt. Great art can be created with words, if you only get the dildo of pretense out of your ass. Slapping a bullshit book into a cool font does not make it a better book. It makes it a décor piece. It makes it a bookshelf filler. Typefaces, as they apply to fiction, are wallpaper. Wallpapering a poorly designed house does not make it a better house.

Be it by the label of typographer, writer, painter, mixed media, architect or anything else relating to art, there is nothing more offensive than someone who goes by the title of “artist” but produces no art, they merely criticize the art of others. I'm not saying that non-artists aren't welcome critics and a resource of valuable feedback, but to pretend to be one of us just so your blows will hit harder is social suicide, and if and when the current hipster culture is replaced by whatever is next, you will be obsolete.

So, when the world ends because I put a piece of writing into Arial or Helvetica, don't be sad. I will have created something that will outlive me in one form or another. That's what actually matters.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sequels, Though Feared, Are Sometimes Necessary

As anyone who follows my social media posts knows, it has been quite some time since I've done any serious writing. It's been almost four months, to be exact. In the career of a writer, that's an eternity, and long enough to make one feel out of practice and out of touch with one's own work.

I find myself, however, to be in a position where I am compelled to write again.

The problem I've faced, which has prevented me from writing for a further three weeks, is that I have no idea where to start. This is the first time in my entire writing career when I've looked at a blank screen and had no idea what to fill it with.

There have been ideas. I've had it in my head for years now to write a horror novel, but I can't make myself do it yet. Most recently, it came to me to try to write a novel set in the future involving spousal abuse, putting a dark reality into a fantastic world and creating unusual. I cannot make myself write that, either.

However, today I was overcome by an idea that I had at one time thought was the most stupid idea I had ever heard. It occurred to me that Warren and Aaron's story may not be finished. So much is yet to be explained and so many stories left to be told that perhaps Antioch is only the beginning.

Yes, I am talking about another Antioch. The dreaded sequel. The whole dreaded series, perhaps. Book after book of Warren and Aaron's relationship troubles. Obviously, though, we won't be picking up after the events of Antioch, but rather before them. The question is, how far before them?

Now before you kill me with a spike, I want you to consider this: Just about every idea I've come up with to try to avoid doing this could have been summed up as “Antioch in X,” where X represents some variable. Antioch in space, Antioch with female main characters, Antioch as a horror novel, etc.

It all leads in the direction that points toward another Antioch.

I sent texts to a few people that I knew had read Antioch and became invested in the characters, reaching out to them about the possibility of a sequel. I expected to be destroyed, maimed, perhaps even shunned for considering the idea so early in my career.

This was not the case.

So many people have read this book that it blows my mind. Yes, I wrote it hoping to get readers, but the response has been enormous and ongoing. The Antioch site continues to get steady traffic with no intervention from me. The post of Antioch on Authonomy continues to generate positive reviews by other authors with no inquiry to read their own novels, which is rare on that site. With no help from me, Antioch remains above the 2,000 rank in a sea of almost 10,000 unpublished novels on that site, having made it to 55 when I was an active user.

I am not bragging. I am thanking you. Everyone who read and supported my novel, and those who continue to read and support it. I am thanking you from the lonely wastes of depressionland. Your comments and your feedback mean something. I get through the day sometimes by reading all the comments and looking at the stats and knowing that something that I wrote meant something to so many people. I know it, and it the most surreal thing on earth to think that if I had just kept pushing, I may have made it further than I did, but to know how far I came. I had no idea that something that I wrote would get such a response.

Aaron Dunn is not so much a character, but a mirror by which I see myself. Broken, tired, sometimes unwilling to go on, I see myself in him and it hurts and it's freedom and it's indescribable to know that in parts of the world as far removed from my tiny universe as Germany and Russia, he's a mirror for others as well.

So yes, I will be writing another Antioch. I won't go into a lot of detail, but you can rest assured that it will not be called Antioch 2 or Antioch 2: Insert Secondary Title. I'd like to think that I'm more clever than that.

So to everyone who reached out to me, wanting to know how Aaron met Warren, how he became such a fucked up human being and what makes him keep going, I want to thank you and tell you that you are not alone.

I, too, want to know. Because in knowing these things, I will know myself.

Expect this to come to fruition within the month. It will be live, just like the original. I expect you all to be there, because this is what is supposed to happen.

After this, who knows? Maybe I'll write my short stories or another novel, or maybe I'll stop writing altogether if I'm feeling dramatic.

But for now, the story will continue, in some form.

Aaron's and my own.

Be there.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Guess How Many Fucks I Give?

After months of avoiding the internet (both because I did not have it at home anymore, and because I no longer felt a part of my own online presence), I have decided that I am ready to begin a small comeback as an online writer.

I have realized that I have more readers than I thought, and though I am not anywhere near an ideal understanding of the craft of writing, I believe that after all of the hard work that I've invested in learning it, I have something to give the world.

All of my detractors are not so because of my writing, but because of my unfortunate need to voice my opinion, which I also am almost never convinced is wrong. So far, I haven't often been wrong. That's another matter, though. I'll get into that in a minute.

I enter back into this agreement with three understandings in mind, regardless of whether or not anyone else sees fit to adhere to or agree with them.

  1. I am a writer. That is the only label I will use on purpose and at all times to describe myself professionally. I am not a gay writer, or a white writer, or a male writer. Those things are merely the coincidental and sometimes unfortunate circumstances under which I was born. Labels for the sake of labels have no place in writing in my opinion. If you are a good enough writer, no one cares about your gender, sex, gender preference, race, religion or any other label that we use to separate ourselves from one another in daily life. One leaves those things at the door when sitting down to write, or the writing becomes secondary to your personal identity, which no one cares about and no one picked up your book hoping to know.
  2. In the past years and especially the past months, I have become immune to the opinions of others. We would all do well to adopt this outlook, because more harm comes from what credit we give to the opinions of others than from anything we could do to ourselves. It affects what we do with our lives and how we live. I, for one, will no longer be taking advice about my string of bad life choices from someone who has made just as many bad choices just because he or she deems it necessary to voice an opinion I could just as easily find on the web if I cared enough to go looking for it. There are people in this life who are convinced that they are the center of some private revolving little universe, made up of you and everyone else in orbit around them. Avoid them.
  3. I am in a bad place. I may be here for a while. I am in a place where I realize every day that I could have been something by now. I think: Why try to do anything anymore? So know that if I post something, it's a big deal. It means that I was able to get online and function as a marketer for a little bit. That's something I once took for granted, and everyone at one time likely wished that I would stop doing.

That being said, however incoherent and uninteresting all of that may have been, I will follow it with more dry news.

I am writing a Christmas themed story for a contest.

Why am I supporting Christmas?

Because I can. So fuck off. Atheism does not outlaw recognition of holidays, merely the religious aspects of them.

And I want to write a Christmas story. So I will. And when I win, I will get money.

Then, I'm going to write some stories for Writer's Digest's contests. And when I win those, I will prove that I can live on writing. Barely, but it can be done. It may be a few years before I can actually accomplish it, but believe me when I tell you that it will happen.

I'm sure you're all rioting because this isn't funny.

Level of care: 0.

However, I do have some fucks to give. I always have fucks to give. This is me giving a fuck. You ought to shut the fuck up and let me give a fuck.

See? I actually gave you a total of 6 fucks, including this one.

Life is about what you decide to do with it.

I am choosing new paths, albeit in the dark and without much assistance aside from the parents kindly letting me live in their house for a bit.

But what does that say about people who still have light and choose to do nothing?

I envy those people.

They are so determined to identify as a victim that they see and refuse the exit.

It must be nice.

And no, the exit I'm talking about is not offing oneself. That's not so much an exit as a red button. No one actually knows what it does, but some people push it.

I'm not that far gone yet.

So if you want something funny, go read a Garfield strip.

I am not the funny faggot today.

I am officially depressed. I am intermittently unable to get myself to reply to text messages from friends. I haven't written anything in months.

Maybe you understand. Maybe you get it.

I wouldn't know.

I just have trouble giving a fuck.

I can do what I'm asked to do around the parents' house, I can make it through work, and I can somehow lose time in between.

The root cause of all of this likely has something to do with my sudden, self-induced uprooting. Likely, though, it has just as much to do with leaving a life that I knew as comfortable for the strange and faintly alien world of my childhood.

I suppose I'll feel better when I'm back in Muncie.

In the mean time, I've got school to attend to, and a reputation as an artist to uphold. Somehow, also, I've got to figure out who the fuck I am.

Most importantly, I have to decide how much of a fuck I actually give about everything.

That's all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Eat Only The Chairs, Or: A Change In Personality Is Not As Inorganic As You Think

I see myself changing into a monster. There are tendrils, you see, off in every direction now, but most importantly, some of them have turned inward, strangling the source.

I have to keep reminding myself that I know how to be alone. This, among other feelings (such as the urge to drive anywhere at night, so long as it's somewhere), is a problem. It's a problem, and I see it hurting me.

It all starts with a statement of fact, I suppose, so here we go. I'll try to be funny for the people who just read my blogs so they can shit their pants with laughter, but I promise nothing.

I am a strong person. Despite what you see of me in text, in person, online, or what you think you know, I am a strong person. I say this more for my own benefit than anything else, but it has to be said. I find myself acting like a weak, sickening loser. I find myself saying and doing things that are out of character for me. I don't do these things. I don't talk like this. I don't have these conversations with people.

I find myself flipping tables over the silliest things. Unacceptable.

Next, I am a beautiful person. There, I said it. And before you all crucify me upside down for saying that, hear me out. It's not what you think. Admittedly, I post a lot of photos online. I'm not talking about physical beauty, though. What I mean is that I am mentally and emotionally developed in such a way that I attract people to me. I have lots of friends. I'm cool with this.

Granted, I'm starting to have my late-twenties awkward turtle moments in public, where I realize I have no idea what song is playing or who some dumb celebrity is, but I suppose that's part of growing up. Unfortunately, I have trouble relating to my younger friends because of this, and because I have very little patience for things that don't benefit me anymore (that definitely came out of my mouth; done denying that), and for people who act as a glorious, rotating center of some universe, whether or not anyone else can see the stars.

I don't want to be one of these people who have eight million friends on Facebook and post pictures declaring themselves to be amazingly hot. The internet is full of these people. I'm a different kind of person. Some people identify this way, as some kind of fallen or ignored supermodel that the industry overlooked, or as some bitchy nerdy diva, or some sweater wearing artless hipster. Some people assume themselves to be a celebrity because everyone wants to add them and jack off to their photos. I think these are my favorite. Eight hundred million friends, and not a single one wants to know who you are. It's a lonely existence. Adored by millions of fans, and no one ever says hi. Isn't that a bitch? It's because all they want are your photos, Captain Jack. That's all they want. They don't want you.

Anyway, enough about me being bitter.

I am over flinging myself about waiting for people to pay attention to me. This isn't a natural part of who I am. It's never felt organic. The reason it happens is because I sit alone and I think “Golly I need to chat with someone.” And then I start chatting with strangers and I'm like “This is awesome. I wish they'd stop talking to me though, because I hate everyone.” And then they do, and I'm sad. And I'm like MOTHER F*****.

The main issue to take care of as far as this goes is to get back into reading. I read, sure, but not nearly enough. Some of my friends put me to shame. Reading is free, thanks to libraries, and it's entertaining. As a writer, I need to read. Not reading and yet writing anyway is like exhaling without inhaling. Both parts have to be done, or your lungs explode or something dramatic like that. I'm not a scientist.

I will leave my mark on this self-destructive world. I will do it through art. You will all remember me. I want to write things that change lives, and I'm getting close to being comfortable with my style. I have readers! It's exciting.

I just need to get the rest of my life figured out.

Yeah, that's it. Nothing else.

I know it wasn't pants-shitting humor, but you'll all get over it. There's always next time.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Few Painful Realizations

As most people know, if they've kept up with my online presence or work with me or know me in person, I am currently in a very dark, secluded place right now. There's almost no sunlight, but I'm trying to convince myself that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

The truth, though, (and I've just realized this today while Millie and I were in Muncie collecting my reserved copy of The Martian Chronicles) that there are some instances where the light at the end of the tunnel may have gone out, and you have a choice: you can sit in the dark and wait to die, or you can make your own light, be it a flashlight or a phone or a match burning down to your fingers. It's not a natural light, and it's not going to feel safe or right, but it will help navigate the darkness until the light at the end comes back.

This is very much my life. It's a statement that's become quite common in human society, to proclaim this drunk and half naked and hanging penniless from the sides of cruise ships, covered in ribbons of our own vomit, but I mean it in quite a new way.

I've been giving this a lot of thought, and Millie and I have had some very lengthy discussions about it, and I am never disappointed by how supportive she is.

Let me begin by saying that Millie and I help one another. We always have. When others turn away because they simply cannot stand our bad choices, or because we no longer serve their purpose, or because we've become simply too annoying to keep around, we keep one another around. She's stayed with me when my family turned me away, extended and immediate, and when all of my friends stopped talking to me, and I was with her for things that I won't discuss, because it's not my place to do so.

Millie and I are sharing an apartment in Anderson at the moment because Sybil and I went to go get her and, well, I suppose you could say that we rescued her from what we considered to be an unsuitable and unstable situation in Kentucky, and Millie and I are working toward some kind of medicated ability to deal with life in general.

This, you see, is part of the issue. Not taking care of things that Millie needs or anything like that. I don't mind that at all, because she's a good friend and she's done the same for just about every person in her life, even if they make fun of her while exploiting her, leave her suddenly for nuances and mistakes, decide that she's overwhelming, etc. I refuse to leave Millie in a bad situation.

However, there is growing inside me the realization that if I do not do something soon for myself, I will find myself coming to an end. My body will continue, my mind will function, but I will have no desire to be anything. I will have given up. I will stop writing and just be a sad bump working in a factory and hating life.

As I've said, Millie and I have discussed how this can be addressed. I've narrowed the issues down to three things.

First, I've decided that I hate my job, which shall not be named. I go into my job not knowing what my actual job is going to be that day, who my team lead will be, who my supervisor will be, or if my badge will suddenly not be active when I come back from lunch. The idea of being there makes me physically sick in ways that only a therapist could properly put into words. After three years, I am still a disposable position filler, and I am awaiting the gun to my head, so to speak.

Second, our combined cost of living, including the once manageable apartment rent, is beginning to drive me into a deep, dark depression as I think of all the things that I'll never pay off. We have both become severely depressed sloths, sleeping as late as our responsibilities allow, and even ignoring some of them. Our depression is mutual and codependent, and I have no access to or way to pay for therapy. Millie, while she has Medicaid, is being shuffled around like an afterthought on a schedule and has actually gotten worse because she's not being seen.

Then there's the question of what my family would think of my solutions. I think my Dad and Lisa would be so disappointed in me if I lost a job that they consider to be a good job, and especially if I left voluntarily. I don't think they'd stop talking to me or ex-communicate me or anything, but I already think they're not sure if they believe that I'm even in school, because my past is so shady, and because I once told my dad I'm a compulsive liar to explain something I had told him.

This brings me to the next part of how I may help myself. At some point, when Millie is better, or in a better situation, or able to function on her own (with meds), we will find a little place for her in Anderson or Muncie and I may end up moving to the Ritz apartments in Portland. I have my reasons, and I will explain them in a bit, but first, here's how I actually feel about moving back to Portland.

I feel dead. I feel defeated and stomped on and spit out by life, bloody and broken and gurgling when I breathe. I feel like life has beaten the shit out of me with a tire iron and thrown me onto a trash heap. Moving to Portland would simply be icing on the defeat cake.

Why, then would I move back?

I will begin with one simple reason: to live cheaply. The Ritz apartments are cheap, and the cost of living in Portland is third world low.

The next reason is educational. My job now and my location do not allow me to be a full time student and do it the way I'd like to. I have just enough time to throw assignments together before they're due, because if I want to work less than forty hours, I've been told it has to be approved, which will take longer than the semester allows. I will have already flunked out fighting the war of the schedules, and lost my job in the process.

The next reason is that as much as I tout my independence, I miss my family. I miss Dad and Lisa and Sydney more than I can even say in words, and I have no money for gas to see them most of the time. I can't go see my Mom's grave as often as I'd like, as a result of this. As far as extended family go, if I do make it to Portland, there's so little time before I have to be back and go to class or work that it's out of the question unless they work somewhere that I can catch them.

But one of the most important reasons is one that my family still does not acknowledge the full importance of, mostly because I think they've considered me to have resigned myself to live a small life followed by a small death and resulting in a cookie cutter headstone as the only sign that I ever existed, is that I have no time to write. I have to break promises and cancel plans to do it, and I want badly to write. Not being able to write is like not being able to breath. I'm being allowed to breath enough to stay alive, but my lungs hurt, and I'm starting to panic and fear suffocation.

In short, I have no life right now. My ambitions are free-floating, now, with no connection to the life I'm leading right now. I know that many of you would disagree with me when I say that this is not a life. I have enough money to live on, were I not depressed and eating everything on earth and impulse spending to make the angry and pain go away. I have a place to live that's paid up for at least another couple months, and I have income from student loans and a very normal, respectable job. Why, you ask, would I ever want to leave all of this?

That's a very good question. I think my reasons are self-explanatory. If any of you want the job I have, I assure you that they're hiring. I've been there three years, and I can tell you that three years is absolutely enough. I feel nothing now but an empty requirement to go into a building and sit and wait for the day to be over, keeping my metrics as far above average as I can to avoid the pink slip. It's no better than working a Burger King was. The amount of respect is the same, and there happens to be slightly less food in the building.

Another reason I want to go to Portland is the wide availability of mental health services.

I cannot breathe where I am. I do not want to live here any longer than I have to, and these choices, however angry the realizations make me, no matter how tearfully nostalgic Portland makes me, or how hurt and alone I feel wandering up and down Meridian Street, I will at least be able to live as a full time student with a part time job, who writes on the side and has a life worth living.

That, I assure you, no matter how selfish and ill-advised it may be, is the only way I will survive the next few years.

You may all rail against me, but when the time comes, which I will not reveal publicly until I'm sure, you will see a great improvement in my sense of self.

I have to do this for myself. As much as the idea makes me sick of moving back to Portland while approaching 30, a fiscal and romantic failure, dragging my entrails behind me, I have decided that Portland is where I will find safety and grow into the adult I should have been years ago, were I not so busy chasing idiot men and refusing to pay my bills.

Turns out, I need help. I've been saying it for years, and the only response I get from friends and family (some exceptions, of course) is that I'm fine and this is normal.

This. Is. Not. Normal.

I refuse to believe that this is normal, and I refuse to live this way. I am supposed to be an adult, and I am done rejecting reality so that I can avoid being inconvenient to everyone whose image is closely linked to my behavior. I've done some significant damage. I think some damage control is in order.

After that, we'll see how it goes.

Your opinion is not needed, especially if it is unhelpful, but if you know someone who is suffering from depression, don't be an asshole to them. Don't tell them to just cheer up and choose to be happy. Don't you think if we could we would you fucking idiot?

Lastly, Portland will always be my mother's home. It will always be where she was born and lived her life, singing late nights downtown and touching everyone she knew in some way. It will always be where she died and where I lost my way, and where the buildings she knew were bulldozed, the people she knew died and were buried, and new buildings and people came to be, replacing her entirely save for a gravestone in a cemetery in the middle of nowhere.

My mother did not want me to turn out this way.

Let this give you all something to ponder. What, I don't know. But ponder it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why I'm Still Not Going To Pride: A Form Letter Of Sorts

Every year around this time, Indy Pride takes over my entire circle of friends and sweeps most of them into Indianapolis for what usually amounts to an ironic hot dog eating contest colored with vague political leanings. I have already been asked by 5 people if I'm going.

Again, as always, the answer is no.

The parade itself is a good idea, yes, should any sense of community or obligation ever cross the minds of the people dancing about in bikinis with spray-on tan lines.

I will share with you the flaws in the system that we have.

I will begin with a revelation for members of my community: we aren't all just gay and straight. It's not us against them. There are so many different kinds of people that are excluded by this festival. Most prominently, my friend Millie is in no way represented. To top that off, even as a represented group, I feel out of place. I don't have a hot body to show off. I don't feel comfortable surrounded by a bunch of sweaty mostly-naked guys who have all met at one time or another on Adam4Adam. I do realize that this is not all that's there, believe me. I am not stupid. I am observant, but I do see that this is the majority. People like myself are not actively represented at pride because we do not belong there. Pride has become about how hard everyone can put their sexual orientation as priority one, and that simply does not work in my case.

I am not just gay. I am a writer first. And just so you know, putting my writing first is a creative choice that you don't have to agree with. You don't have to see it as a viable career or a worthwhile pursuit. You can passive-aggressively tell me that I'm missing opportunities or just ignore my accomplishments all you want, be you friends or family or total strangers.

My life is my life, and I choose not to throw my gender preference out at my only good card. I don't have to be a gay writer. Yes, my characters are gay, but I'm not writing for gays only. My stories are not soft-core porn unless I write them that way. I don't have to load them with sex scenes to prove that my characters are gay, or myself for that matter. My gender preference is sometimes the deciding factor in the gender preference of my main characters, but that mostly comes from the fact that I have little experience as a straight person or a bisexual person or a trans-gendered person or anyone other than a gay man, and even then only in the functional, occasional sense of the word.

I also don't write many female main characters, for the same reason. Everyone understands that reasoning, but I always get questions about why all my main characters are gay.

I've diverted from the topic. Refocus.

The people I see going to pride are usually shiny dirty gays and gay rights activists who mistakenly believe that their message is more effective when aimed at the gay community rather than their oppressors or the people who can do something about it.

Believe me, protesting unfair treatment of gays at a gay pride parade is not effective at all. To use a very old cliché, these people are preaching to the choir. It's like the members of my dad's church trying to save each other but never venturing outside the four walls of the church as an active Christian. (believe me, as an atheist, I would say that's a pretty fair and balanced comparison.)

I also feel that, as a gay man, I am expected to treat pride as a big hookup festival, and therefore I do, which is to say that I refuse to participate.

If you choose to go to pride, that's your business, and I suppose I support you getting your drink on and seeing lots of eye candy and eating your ironic hot dogs, but personally, I think I can make a bigger impact on this world if I don't assume that the gay card is the only one I have to play.

No, I shan't be going.

You can rail against me with your rainbow flags and say that I'm bitter and angry, and I'm not about to disagree with you. I won't go so far as to say you've all made me this way with your shallow dumping rituals and using me when I was younger, though that may be partially true. I am above all of that. What I will say is that I'm not protesting the community. I am protesting you. I don't dislike the community. I dislike you. After all, I am part of the community, whether I like it or not. I have my own corner of it, far from yours, and I would simply prefer not to step into your sparkly greased up photo booth of rainbow disease. I'll stay over here with my writing and my iced coffee, and I would prefer you show me some respect and stop trying to pull me out of it. I like it here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Biggest Rant Of Them All

I went back to Portland a few days ago to visit my family, and journey to my mom's grave, and see Jen and some of my other friends.

I never realize how much pain being home is going to cause me until I'm there.

Home. What a sick word. What definition of Home causes Portland to be classified as mine? It shouldn't be, by my definition. Rest assured that if I could leave it behind, I would.

There are people who might ask why I go back, and equally as many people who would ask me why I don't come back for good. I know both sides, trust me. Both sides are in my head on repeat the whole time I'm there from the second I pass the high school.

My stomach turns itself into knots, and I tell myself that nothing ever happened.

Life has a funny way of reversing down the driveway in your car and speeding headlong into your past. I explored the John Jay Center with my friend Amanda last month, and this time I spent some time at Hudson Park with Jen. I can tell myself all I want that I've left this little town behind, but here I come in my car again to see it.

Like a train wreck, I can't look away. I look up at the Ritz and think about what life might have been like if I'd started my adulthood correctly, moving out at 18 into the apartment I would otherwise have shared with one of my exes instead and went to school at Ivy Tech through John Jay. Stayed at BK until I finished school, avoiding management. Wrote my first book at 20, started honing my talent instead of wasting almost a god damned decade chasing idiots down the dating drain.

Who knows what might have happened if I'd been thinking clearly before graduation, made good grades, applied to Ball State, gotten out of here?

The town that Wal-mart built, because no one can remember life before it.

Maybe I should have gotten out when I learned that Muncie was only step one toward real life.

But what is real life? Black rimmed glasses and coffee? Instagram photos? What are we, my generation? A whole lost maze of adult children, drifting back into our parents' homes. That's what we are.

Fuck grammar and sentence structure.

I want to feel something other than remorse when I come to Portland.

I want to feel something better than wishing I could erase whole years of my life.

Because knowing that some of the people who used to be my friends want nothing to do with me makes me not want anything to do with anyone. To know that a single mistake spurred two years worth of mistakes spurred whole groups of people to leave me, friends and family and strangers alike... it makes me want to stand on the side of all the main roads and scream until I ruin my throat and blood starts coming up.

I see people I used to know and hang out with and I just keep driving, because what would they have to say to me, or I to them? I've got my writing and my school and my job now, and they've got nothing to say to me still, after four years.

Oh you silly abandoneers.

I tried to make communication with some of you a little over a year ago and was disturbed and disappointed at how angry some of you still were with me.

That's rule number one in Portland: If someone lets you down, don't ever ever EVER let him forget it.

Rule number two: If someone becomes too busy to respond to your every communication, he is a bad person and obviously hates you.

Those are bullshit rules that likely apply to all small towns.

I do have some news to all the gossiping scapegoateers of Portland, flinging themselves from bar to filthy wood-paneled bar and talking about how I'm a terrible breed of human: I realize I've made more mistakes that I can count on both hands and both toes. However, you needn't remind everyone and therefore vicariously me about it.

I wish I could get debt collectors to stop calling my parents asking for me. It's embarrassing. However, I can barely pay the bills I have now. I should call them all and give them my number. If only I had their numbers.

But the main question is still the same. Why do I come back to Portland?

After I've betrayed all of Portland and my entire extended family and the whole world with my avoidist behavior, why do I come back?

The simplest answer is that this is where my Mom lived almost her whole life. When I drive or walk the streets, I feel like I'm tracing her steps. I don't feel so lost when I think of it that way.

You know, I got a lot of criticism for following my mom's wishes to be cremated. I was looked at as a scheming little monster, out to save money any way I could and stick my mom in the ground for cheap. “I don't think she really wanted to be cremated” you said to one another.

I don't think I've ever properly responded to that.

I realize that grief is a funny thing, and it makes people do and say silly things, so I will be kind and considerate and respectful, which is more than I was shown at the time outside of the small circle that consisted of myself, Joe, Lynn and my aunt Joann at the time. I'm setting those people aside, because they were nothing but supportive and strong and wonderful companions at that time.

The rest of you are subject to a bit of a reality check.

Put down your beers and cigarettes and listen to me, because I am not you anymore. I will only say this once.

Mom told me point blank that cremation was how she wanted it. Perhaps she said it because she wanted to save us all a little money, but she did not ever retract that statement, and I was not about to go against her wishes because friends and family could not accept that she had not wanted to be buried whole for the bugs and snakes to eat.

I would also like to point out that I did not pay for her funeral. My aunt Joann did. Joann is one of the kindest, most honest, most beautifully human women and people I have ever known, and she took it upon herself to go from one ATM machine to another, racking up credit card debt so that I would not have to pay Don Spencer's outrageous bill for a cremation and non-ceremony at the grave. She also fronted the bill for the headstone and helped me decide on the details for everything because despite me looking and acting like a real asshole at the time, she and the others in that group knew that I didn't really want to be alive right then, either.

I don't think that people in country towns realize the psychological damage their bar talk does to a 21-year old boy who has just put his mother in the ground. Accusing me of being a cheap dick, and trying to save money on the funeral? You wonder why I visit so few of you.

Resume beer and cigarettes, because that's all you'll ever be.

You wanted a normal relative? What's a normal relative? Someone who doesn't start rumors that I, as your cousin, wanted to fuck you on my mom's grave? Someone who doesn't start a smear campaign about me because they don't like my mom's final wishes? Someone who doesn't carry some god damned grudge against me because I dated someone they didn't like?

I'd like one of those, too.

You're all fired.

I don't think that any of you will ever know the depths to which I sink when I come to Portland. Please, don't expect me to have a jolly old time when I'm there.

That would be selfish and unrealistic.

I'm facing questions right now like: Am I a sociopath? Is it worth continuing another 30 years? Why have I wasted so much of my life?

I don't need your questions, too.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dear Pastor Worley

Dear Pastor Worley,

Unless you plan to withdraw from the world as we know it, I would consider retracting your concentration camp-esque statement about what to do with all the gays and lesbians of the world. I will tell you why.

We are cooks and factory workers, and we touch all of the food you eat, at some stage of the process.
We clean your house every day.
We change the oil in your car.
We are doctors and we keep your body functioning, much to our dismay.
We ring up your order at Target.
We are CEOs guiding the decisions of companies that can smash you.
We are in the government, deciding your healthcare future.
We are fighting overseas because you decided we should go there.

We are all around you, and we are the only reason that you personally are not dead some days.

You are welcome for that Junior Whopper and Senior drink at Burger King.
You are welcome for that medicine that keeps you from dropping your bowels into the toilet and keeling over dead from a coronary.
You are welcome for the car that at least one of us helped build for you.
You are welcome for the very media outlets that allow you to be so obscene.

You are welcome for being allowed to live another day.

One day, when you're too far gone to take care of yourself, we'll be all around you in some nursing home or retirement community, making sure you don't fall and break your face. We'll serve your food, we'll drive you to Wal-mart, we'll even switch the channel on your TV.

I think we deserve a little respect.

Just because you are an ignorant, awful old piece of rotten does not warrant the treatment you have suggested of the very people who keep you going.

Unless they magically ban all gays and lesbians from working at all, we will be all around you, and we don't have to do anything for you. We do it because we respect that you are a human, and because we expect that in return, you will have respect for us.

Be very very careful, Pastor Worely. I hear bad stories from nursing homes. I would not want one of those to be yours.

Yours truly,

A queer gay.

Thank You, But I Politely Decline Your Invitation To Participate In Your Hallucinatory Definition Of Normal

Sex really is that one big issue that everyone gets in a giant uproar about.

People kill each other over it. People destroy lives for it. Some people die for it.

Most of my adult life, I have found myself to be pretty unhappy with it. I don't know what exactly it is about it. Maybe it's that it's an expected part of a romantic relationship, or maybe that particularly in the gay community, it's more and more acceptable to expect an otherwise judgmentally sound person to drop his or her pants on the first date or two.

Admittedly, I have made some unwise choices that I would like to think my peers are not stupid enough to have made. I don't talk about these choices. That's my decision. Normally, anyway.

I don't know. I'm in a situation right now where “cuddling” is being forced upon me in such a way that it's not intimate or friendly or special, but simply as the expected next step after seeing someone in person twice.

This person is a very good person, and I enjoy his company, but the pressure to do this one simple gateway action which will inevitably lead to more intense interaction, probably that same night, is irritating. I've told him this, and we apparently agree to disagree. It's such a big deal that I haven't heard from him for the last few days.

If you pressure me to cuddle or anything else that involves me letting you far enough into my bubble that I will be uncomfortable, it's like telling me over and over that I'll like a specific movie. Every time you tell me I'll like it or ask me why I still haven't seen it, I'm picturing myself shoving the DVD case up your ass. I'm not sure how the physics would work with cuddling, but believe me, the mentality is the same.

This isn't the first time I've felt a large amount of resistance to someone else insisting that things move much faster than I'd like. Up until a few years ago, I didn't realize it was okay to tell someone I didn't want to cuddle or make out or whatever. As you might imagine, I have regrets.

You will never catching me posting photo quotes that say things like “don't live in the past” and “no regrets” because I see that sort of thing as denial.

The past exists. You will not outrun it. The ideal outcome is that you learn something from it and you emerge a changed, better person.

I am actually considering the idea that I might not like sex at all, and to be perfectly honest, it pisses me off. It's not like sex is bad, it's just that I don't always want to have it. I don't think that I should have to put out as a normal function of a harmonious relationship.

Cuddling is not something I'm good at in the modern gay sense. I don't like pretending to be okay while someone tries to shove a hand down my pants (and I've NEVER seen cuddling between gay men not lead to this.) It's not intimate or special or anything like that, and it makes me feel like I've lost a part of my humanity when it's over, even if I like the person.

It's been years since I last subjected myself to that sort of thing, because I simply don't have to do that to myself.

I don't have to let someone touch me to feel close to them. He and I should be able to spend time reading in the same room, not talking, our minds mingling across the silence with a shared line and a joke now and then. We should be able to engage one another intellectually. This person might not be someone I'm sexually attracted to, but someone who makes me feel like I've met an equal and that I'm loved.

And let me define cuddling, for anyone who doesn't know. Ready for a revelation? No penises involved, guys.

Do a search for cuddling on Wikipedia. It redirects to “hugging,” and shows people embracing. Everything beyond that is what science refers to as “sexual activity,” and that requires my explicit permission before proceeding.

Perhaps I am bitter. I've been told that. Perhaps I'm wrong. I've been told that, too. I realize I sound like a moral buzz kill, but I assure you this is not a morality issue. This is an issue of what I'm comfortable with. I'm not saying your definition of anything has to be congruent to mine. I am simply not comfortable with what I view as an invasion of my personal space that I neither asked for nor gave permission for. You can call me a prude or tell me I'm going to be alone the rest of my life. I get that a lot. You know what? What's another 27 years going to hurt? I've gone this long not being in a relationship more than an average of a few weeks, and I'm comfortable with that. It's not a personality flaw. It's an inability to relate.

Yes, my past has a hand in my thought process, but just because I haven't made the wisest dating choices these last few years doesn't mean I'm damaged. I've dated some nice guys and I've dated some dicks.

I do find guys attractive. Obviously. And it's not that I don't feel sexual attraction. I just don't like people coming further into my bubble than I allow them. Expressing your disbelief or inability to understand why I don't let you in further makes my walls go higher.

I'm not looking for a boyfriend. Those things are fleeting and based at least on mutual attraction. That can't be forced. I'm looking for a comfortable existence, alone or otherwise, where I can write and be myself and either not be judged or laugh at my judges. If that happens to involve another person, that would be okay, as long as it's organic and based on respect and friendship.

And there, my friends, lies the fucking problem.

No one wants to be friends first.

And if you don't want to be my friend, I don't want to be your partner. I want to know the person I share a bed and a life with. What a novel idea.

Mind blowing, I know.

A Mild Correction Of Something I Saw On Facebook: It Doesn't Mean What You Meant When You Posted It

This is a list of ThInGs ThAt ArE nOt ClEvEr. Let's start with capitalizing every other letter. Kittie did it when I was in high school. It has not been cool since, and it will never be cool again, no matter how hard you do it.

That being said, we shall move on.

There are a lot of cute little sayings being pirated and made into personal Facebook badges out there. Most of these are inspirational in context, but when placed next to a picture and a person, they take a new form. Observe.

"Don't judge me by my past. I don't live there anymore." *Deuces fingers, duck face, alcohol and drunk cats clearly visible in the background.*

So what are you doing in that photo, whorebops? Checking for lost mail? You know, if you're going to make this proclamation, do make sure it's true. Or better yet, rather than using a viral photo to discuss your aversion to the past, you might consider actually separating yourself from it.

Also, the definition of leading a full life is misinterpreted on here.


"Life is not a journey to the grave
With the intention of
Arriving safely in a pretty
And well preserved body,
But rather to skid in broadside,
Thoroughly used up,
Totally worn out,
And loudly proclaiming,
WOW !!!! What a ride!"

Granted, this is the 1897 edition. You can tell because it says "broadside" rather than "sideways," but the sentiment is the same. I agree with this statement. Saying this, allow me to tell you what this statement does NOT mean.

To skid into the grave sideways does NOT mean to leave a trail of mangled dead bodies and boiling vomit herpes in your wake. It does not mean that you fill the internet with videos of you banging yourself with a 2x4 and then wonder why no one wants to date you. It does not mean you get so blasted that you don't remember destroying shit at other people's houses. Living your life like a Ke$ha song is NOT skidding into the grave sideways.

I wish I had more of these to share, but I don't care enough to waste more words fighting the collective ignorance of humanity. I would rather just have netflix.