Thursday, May 29, 2008

Here's another one!

Obituraries always leave out the really interesting stuff, like how he not only lived to see fifteen presidents, served in the Navy with John F. Kennedy, and almost got into a fight with Henry Fonda in a bar in New York.

Just for the record, I'm doing okay right now. Sure, I'm angry at life, but my bitterness is only, like, two notches above normal. We're still on level orange at the TMA headquarters.

In Which No One Ever Gets Over Middle School

If I ever become famous for my writing, I certainly hope my middle and high school misdeeds don't come back to haunt me. I really don't want to rehash my one trip to the principal's office in ninth grade.

Emily Gould Broke Some Hearts Back in Middle School [Gawker]
Exposed: Blog-Post Confidential [NYTM]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

This Is How I Deal With Rejection.

Tomorrow is my first day back at work in almost three weeks. I am not excited, because I feel like I'm starting a new job. I'm so out of the loop.

When people ask me what I ideally want to do for a living, I'm just going to say, "Not making a living." Because, honestly, the last two and a half weeks - despite the whole death thing - have been great because I haven't had to go to work.

I've had a wonderful weekend back in Chicago. I haven't done much; I went to Berlin on Friday night and it was fun and not the usual mess. Sure, all the normal dipshits were there, but I did hang out with friends and make out on the street after closing, and you can't really complain about that, now can you?

The rest of the weekend was low-key: drinks with friends on Saturday night, a pre-Memorial Day cookout on Sunday, and an afternoon walking about Lakeview, buying books and sweating my face off (it's hot all of a sudden!). And after a great night of burgs and brews at Big Chicks, I came home kind of dreading work tomorrow because it means I have to go back to the real world.

And then I got an annoying bit of news I'm not going to share, because I'm trying (honestly!) not to overshare on the Internet these days. But still, I'm kind of bummed and I feel like I'm slipping back into the bitter guy I was four weeks ago. Of course this all happens right before I go back to work. I don't think this is a coincidence.

I will tell this story, because I think it's indicative of how that embittered guy is still resting just under my skin, and how I don't even give a shit about letting him out anymore.

There's this guy that I had a crush on about a month and a half ago. And it was a generally big crush, the kind that grew out of daily IM conversations and at least one actual date that cost me a good fifty bucks. (I know that's lame as hell to say, as if I should be able to write-off any investments I made in courtship.) Anyway, things, obviously, did not progress beyond me professing interest (um, a few times) and him being a general douchebag who didn't give me a straight answer. Finally, after the last time, I took him off my buddy list; a few weeks later, I deleted him as a friend on Facebook and MySpace, and was pretty happy about it.

Then, last week, when I was knee-deep into my "red wine boot camp" as Adam referred to it (you know, the two weeks I spent drinking at least four glasses of wine every single night), I happened to visit his Facebook page for the expected aggravation it would cause me. I saw that he posted a note about songs that reminded him of friends or something (because that's what people without blogs do, apparently), and he mentioned a Neko Case song. But he spelled her name as "Niko."

And this is what I did:

And you know what? I'm still pretty pleased with myself.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Maximum Exposure

Whenever anyone asks me what it was like growing up in a small town, I tell them this story.

In seventh grade I started having a lot of trouble in my pre-Algebra class. I just didn't get Algebra, and it was the first time I had any problem with math, much to my mother's (the mathematician) chagrin. Add to the fact that I was the first-born, and even though I didn't have the typical amount of pressure put on me that most first children receive (because my parents were, sigh, NICE, I guess), there was an understanding that I was to stay on the honor roll for the rest of my school career, and, if it were possible, for the rest of my life.

So pre-Algebra really screwed up that plan. I thought I was smart enough, however, that I could hide the occasional bad grades I received from my parents; as long as I got a B every nine-weeks, they didn't really need to know about the Cs or Ds I got on tests, right? Well, this plan seems to fail when you live in a small town and you happen to get the one math teacher in the middle school who has been teaching there for years, who is married to the man who owns the furniture store where your parents bought all of their major appliances, and happens to take an early evening walk around your neighborhood block every single day. So, of course, Mrs. Sisson, when seeing my dad cutting grass in the evenings, would stop and chat and inevitably say something like, "Tyler (pronounced, mind you, as "Tyyylaaah") got a C on a math test today."

One would think that moving six hundred miles to Chicago would protect my identity a bit, and make me more anonymous. Nearly everyone I went to high school with, at least the ones that I was the closest to, have moved out of the area (albeit mostly to Richmond and Fredericksburg). And my father was indeed a local celebrity, given the numbers at the funeral home visitation and the funeral this week, but I never considered that I knew or was close to many people around here. Sure, being home for an event like this has certainly made me appreciate growing up in a small town, because the emotions expressed by everyone we have encountered have been very comforting instead of overwhelming.

Of course, here's the weird thing, which has shaken me up quite a bit: I've had a few people, people who are friends with my parents, say, "I've read your blog!"

I used to think having potential or current employers finding this site was bad. Imagine the people who came over for dinner, or the parents of people you went to high school. People who aren't extremely close to the family, but close enough that it's, um, weird.

When I said something to my mom, she just rolled her eyes, because ONCE AGAIN we all knew she was right. She refuses to read the blog because she's convinced I'm chronicling my crack cocaine addiction, or she'll read about my patronage of prostitutes, or be embarrassed by my jokes about her. (All of the previous don't happen, of course. Except for when I make fun of my mom. But I'm laughing WITH her!) She said, "Well, if you're going to have a blog, people are going to read it." Well, yeah, but not people from Westmoreland County, Virginia. Didn't we just get the Internet, like, four years ago?

I don't mean to sound like some elitist here, saying that I'm this big city big shot here. I still put my pants on one leg and a time, and I still use Spell Check just like everybody else. I know most people wouldn't read this site if they weren't generally interested in what my life was like, and they wouldn't say anything about it if they didn't enjoy it somehow (I think).

But to put it in perspective, I'd like to quote from Janeane Garofalo's 1997 HBO stand-up special, because, you know, I'm obsessed and it's also been a weird basis for my life's maturation. She had a ruptured ovarian cyst that, she said, was discovered after she passed out and had an "thorough" exam by the gynecologist. "Whilst he's down there," she said, "he peers up from between my knees and said, 'You know, my wife and I LOVE you on The Larry Sanders Show!'"

Janeane says she has a don't-ask-don't-tell policy with her vagina; man, I'd love to have that same policy with my blog.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Aftermath

Someone once told me that he was afraid to watch Lars and the Real Girl because a friend described it as too "earnest" for him to enjoy.

I'd probably feel the same way about such a feel-good movie six months ago. Not only do I love that film, but I could probably stand to watch some shittier version of a movie targeted to my emotions and come out of that two-hour experience just fine and dandy.

Today was my father's funeral, which is a hard way to start a sentence, but it's true. I woke up in an understandable funk, but right now I'm actually in an okay mood. I did cry, sure, but I kept myself together much better than I thought. I think what helped was the amazingly HUGE amount of people there today. The funeral procession from my mother's Episcopalian church, where the service was held, to my father's family's Baptist church, where he is buried, was insanely long. I've honestly never seen so many people in my life. Last night, at the funeral home visitation, I stood and shook hands and hugged people for three hours straight. Paul, who is both a distant cousin and the man who organized the visitation, told us he estimated nearly four-hundred people came last night. I think about that many people came today, as well.

After listening to a pretty great sermon and eulogy, and thinking about how my father, who certainly had his sad and angry moments at home, was rarely in a bad mood with anyone else. So many people have said in the last few days that my dad never met a stranger; it's certainly true: he made everyone feel that they were his friend, despite the fact that, most of the time, he couldn't remember anybody's name.

I didn't cry at the grave site and I was pretty proud of myself. I knew that my father would have; the man couldn't keep a dry eye during any sad moment on TV or a movie (Hell, he cried during an episode of The Brady Bunch when Marcia was punished and couldn't go on a school ski trip), but I knew that he would have never wanted anyone to be sad for him. My uncle told the story about when my dad called him to tell him that his cancer had returned during his eulogy. He said, "Johnny said to me, 'You know, to have to tell people that kind of thing must be a really hard job.' He was more worried about the doctor than he was about himself." I think that sums up the nature of my father's personality: he loved so many people, and that obvious affection really rubbed off on everyone he met.

A friend of my parents came up to me at the reception today and, looking at the hot, crowded room, said, "Well, I guess this means I should be a lot nicer to people." If there's anything I have taken from this experience, it's that I shouldn't be so negative, I shouldn't let people upset me or make me angry (and, when they do, be overwhelmingly nice to them, because killing them with kindness and pissing them off is much more rewarding that all of the negative energy it takes to hate them), and I should, as my father would say, take it easy.

Again, I love and appreciate all of the messages I've received from people, many of whom I only know through the Blogosphere. And I want everyone to know that, surprisingly, I am doing okay, and as cheesy as it sounds, I think it's how my dad would have wanted it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W. H. Auden

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Kindness of Almost-Strangers

I have nothing new to report. My father is still with us, physically, which is a feat that has astounded all of us, including the hospice nurse, who told us today she didn't understand it. I think he'd be surprised, too.

Two days ago I walked into my parents' room and my mother was talking to him. He had turned to her and said, "We need to make a decision." Assuming he thought he was in the hospital (he's in a hospital bed right now), my mother said, "Well, it's up to you." He said to her, "I'm ready to go."

I woke up my brother (this was around 9:30 in the morning, about four hours before he was really ready to be awake), and we stood on the other side of the bed. He turned slightly and looked at us, managing to say, "I'm sorry, but I need to go." He told us he'd say hello to Pop for us, and my mom asked him to look for her mother, too.

When the nurse asked my mother today if she had told him that it's alright if he leaves, she replied, "Hell, I've done everything but call the President to tell him it's OK."

I for one have managed to keep it together, mostly because I'm so exhausted from this experience to be really upset anymore. You kind of get used to the sight; my mother told me that she's afraid she won't be able to get the image of him lying in bed, reduced to a skeletal frame out of her head. One day I hope we'll all be able to forget that and instead focus on what he used to look like, which is almost unrecognizable by now.

One great thing to come out of this is a realization of how many people have been thinking of us. I've gotten a lot of emails, Facebook messages, texts, and IMs from friends (and even blogger friends I have never met). I haven't responded to most of them, but I want to express my gratitude; it has really helped me get through this. On top of that, we have tons of new flowers sitting on our porch, and we've been kept in lasagna and chicken salad and red wine, enough to last us another two weeks.

Tomorrow is the Relay for Life at the high school. My father's first cousin's husband (it sounds complicated, but not really) will be presenting a check to the American Cancer Society, which is from a golf tournament he organized a few weeks ago in honor of my dad and another woman from the area who is suffering, albeit surviving, from cancer. When he came by the other night, he told us that past tournaments in which he's participated usually raised around three to four thousand dollars.

Today he brought by a copy of the check for us to see. It's written for $12,738.02.

It's incredibly comforting to know that no matter what, my family is not going through this alone.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I've been out of it since the day I was born.

Yesterday I went to Fredericksburg to buy a suit, and that was a wonderful trial as I discovered I am the only man this side of the Fall Line who wears a 38L. Macy's didn't have one, JoS. A. Bank (stupid name, by the way) had one that was over three-hundred dollars and it was still too big, JC Penney was closed because of "severe flooding," and Belk didn't have anyone working the men's department. By the time I got to Men's Wearhouse, I was beyond relieved when Ronald pulled out several suits in my size. I didn't even scoff at him when he suggested that the classic dark gray jacket would look fine paired with a turtleneck.

That's not what I wanted to write this post about, but I do want you all to imagine me wearing a turtleneck with a blazer. Just fucking try, people.

Anyway, after I left Men's Wearhouse (by the way, do you see what they did there?), I planned to go to DSW for shoes, and, conveniently for me, Best Buy was on the way. Hey, I just spent over an hour just trying to find a place that would sell me a suit, much less buying one, so I was going to reward myself with a DVD. (Sure, I had already bought I'm Not There and All The Sad Young Literary Men from Borders between my first two trips to the Spotsylvania "Towne Centre" (very exotic, indeed, Maura), but that's besides the point.) I spent just five minutes in Best Buy because I immediately found what I wanted: the Criterion Collection edition of The Ice Storm.

This recent purchase made me realize I have spent entirely too much money on The Ice Storm. Before I saw the movie I bought the screenplay, as I was in my I-Want-To-Be-A-Screenwriter-When-I-Grow-Up phase. Then I bought the movie on VHS. And then I bought it on DVD a few years ago, which I recently sold to Reckless with a bundle of other DVDs (I only made twenty bucks for the lot of them).

I watched one of the documentaries on the second disc last night, which featured brand-new interviews with the stars of the film. As I watched, perplexed at Christina Ricci's terrible Speed Racer bangs and Joan Allen's Botoxed forehead (even you, Joan? Please, take a cue from Sigourney: her forehead moves), I was kind of shocked to realize that it was released eleven years ago. Not only did it make me feel a little old, I decided that my near-obsession with The Ice Storm speaks volumes of my personality, especially my pre-adolescent mindset. I mean, what kind of fourteen-year-old loves a drama about '70s-era, suburban wife-swapping?

That, my friends, is why high school was miserable.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Battery in your leg.

I'm kind of an idiot and brought The Diving Bell and the Butterfly home with me. I'm about halfway through after trying to watch it two nights in a row. It's very good, but it's very difficult to watch, especially when my father is laying in a hospital bed in my parents' room down the hall. I keep thinking about what it must be like to be in a morphine-induced haze, barely able to communicate.

Tonight I sat next to his bed, holding his hand, watching his chest move up and down and counting the breaths with a constant pain in my stomach hoping that every six to eight seconds another one will come.

I'm surprised that I've held myself together so well. I've cried a few times just looking at him, and have only seriously broken down twice since I've been home. I suppose it's a relief for me to be here and watch this progression instead of being in Chicago; I'm so glad I'm here, but I hate to have to watch someone go through so much pain and anguish.

The house was full of people all weekend. On Saturday my godparents brought a huge dish of lasagna, and there were about eight of us sitting in the kitchen, emptying the fifth bottle of red wine since I arrived on Thursday night. Every now and then someone would walk back to the bedroom to check on him to see if he needed anything; he slept through most of it, at least I think he did. I can't help but wonder if he can hear us back there.

At one point my mother said to him, "Everyone is so angry this is happening to you." I don't feel angry, really. I don't know what I feel. I think because I'm not a spiritual person, I'm not questioning why it's happening in the first place. Of course, at the same time, I've caught myself actually praying - I don't know know to whom or to what I'm praying, but I'm doing it nonetheless. I'm directing my thoughts and wishes to something.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A daisy grows from a turd hill.

An epiphany, and not a very nice one at that:

By the way, John and I are friends again, which is the best thing that happened during The Week That Exploded All Over My Face.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

No, srsly, I totally am nice sometimes.

Hi everyone.

I am feeling better today, but I want to say that I very much appreciate the emails, texts, and IMs I received yesterday. As hard as it is to come up with anything to say in those situations, it's just as difficult to come up with a response sometimes.

There's a poem by Julia Kasdorf that I really like called "What I Learned from My Mother." It has this great line that I've always loved: "I learned to attend viewing even if I didn't know the deceased, to press the moist hands of the living, to look in their eyes and offer sympathy, as though I understood loss even then. I learned that whatever we say means nothing, what anyone will remember is that we came. I learned to believe I had the power to ease awful pains materially like an angel. Like a doctor, I learned to create from another's suffering my own usefulness, and once you know how to do this, you can never refuse."

ANYWAY, enough of that.

I do want to share a link to an essay I wrote on This Recording which I'm pretty proud of. It's my take on the emosogynist idea of the "nice guy," which of course, in that sense, does not exist. I should also mention that I'm pretty sure Molly changed my byline to include that I'm "a really nice guy." TRUE LOVE.