I went through the last of my father’s possessions the other night. One was a thick plastic case filled with his poems, song lyrics, and carbon copies of submissions he sent to places like The Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s.
The case was thick with dust and the papers smelled like the 1970s. (I was not alive in the ‘70s and yet I accept this as fact.)
I inhaled the 50-year-old remnants of musk, earth, and the Marlboro Reds he smoked while I thought about the catalog of unfiltered emotions that disappear when we die.
My father kept these poems and song lyrics and notes scribbled on IRS envelopes until he died, even though, as far as I knew, he didn’t write anything for the last 40 years of his life.
It was important to him, these words, and in keeping them, I felt I was honoring that importance.
And then one night, fingers blackened with dust, I sat on the floor of my living room and threw a lot of it away.
Because keeping the pile of papers has no bearing on the meaning of his life and everything he gave to me.
“Lives stop, but life keeps going.” (Sarah Manguso)
My life has changed profoundly in the last two years (for the better) and I thought about these changes while I sat on the floor of my living room and cried and threw away my dad’s fragments that I couldn’t decipher and wondered why it’s so hard to ask for the smallest things.
I’ve been writing book two of the Love Where You Work series that centers on Julia’s BFF Paula, which has been a nice distraction. The love interest is Tewa Pueblo (shoutout to my mom!). She works as a reluctant journalist at an alt-weekly (shoutout to me 7 years ago!)
Paula and Nita are about to go on a date to an avant-garde live wrestling performance, where the opponents are Scissor Girl (who’s dressed as a giant pair of scissors) and Gina Dentata (who’s dressed as a vulva with teeth).
The funnest part of writing books for me is naming things/people/businesses. There’s a drag queen in this book whose stage name is Alotta Frittata. If you have a great or weird name you want to pass along, I’m here for your suggestions!
This book is coming together much slower, however, since I’ve also been promoting the first book like a mad woman and doing Mew Thong. In hindsight, this was too many things for a short month, on top of my full-time job, and, you know, living.
But it feels good to be working on books again. For a very long time, almost all my writing existed only online. It’s a wonder to hold something you’ve created in your hands.
The Puritans used to have dedicated “days of humiliation” (in addition to days of thanks), where they prostrated themselves and begged for an end to their sufferings. But soon they realized that there were far more humiliations to dwell upon than joys.
I watched a TED talk (on how to not take things personally), and the speaker said that, on any given day, 80 percent of our thoughts are negative.
Perhaps we’re still Puritans. Perhaps we prefer the dark clouds of our swirling minds.
But then you think, Of course our thoughts are negative. How could they not be? Look at the state of the world! Each day reveals a fresh horror. There’s war in Ukraine. A global pandemic. Poverty. Systemic racism. Climate change going ignored. Not to mention the large and small personal struggles that shake our bones each day.
A few days ago, a hail storm ripped through the sky. All the neighborhood kids ran outside to see the show and play in the once-dark streets suddenly blanketed in light.
And on the balcony, our pink peach tree blossoms were covered in a mound of ice. The shock of such experiences grabs your heart, and for a moment, you forget about death and bills and injustices and instead remember what’s so good about being alive.
And that small moment is better than any bucket list or imagined future. It’s a brief, torrential release from the dark clouds of our swirling minds.
Some recent-ish advice columns
I’ve been with my boyfriend for two months. We’ve been exclusive for one month. Things are going pretty great, but the thing is, he doesn’t put me in any of his social media posts. I feel like, if I was important to him, he’d put me in his posts. Do I say something about this or … continue reading
I broke up with my ex, and a few weeks later, she told me she's pregnant. I told her that I didn't want another child as I already have a child from a previous relationship. She insisted that she'll keep the child. I informed her that I won’t have any involvement as I'm being forced to become a father against my will. It's now 7 months later … continue reading
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P.S. A poem by John Pulley, 1975
though you cannot think of me with happiness(some things I could not borrow)there is a placebeyond the chasewhere I can seehow good you were to meand in that place will always be a tasteof goodness and beauty