I was talking with a friend a couple months back about breakups. She told me her last boyfriend cheated on her, and even though she was pissed and over it, she never would love anyone as much as she loved him. I found the sentiment strange and said as much. “No,” she said, “You don’t understand, I loved him.”
I’ve never been much of a romantic. My mother says I was born old and I think that applies here: I know that gushy romance wears poorly over time and eventually you have to learn to settle down into deeper love of older age. Still, I wonder how much that sentiment has to do with the fact that the early stage of my marriage didn’t have many butterflies and rainbows. Either way, I think that explains in part why I couldn’t get my head around my friend’s sentiment.
It was the fifth month of a “constructive separation”—that’s how she put it when she kicked me out. Truth be told, it was constructive. The first couple months I spent with Indian Momma, and after that melted down, I moved to Harlem. As I headed uptown, I was hopeful for the marriage and not without reason even looking back on it now.
I got tickets for Cabaret through my school. Alan Cumming and Emma Stone starred. She loves Cumming, Stone, and Broadway. This was a perfect coup. The night before I had texted her that things were going really well. She agreed. I suggested I move back in even if that meant I just crashed on the couch. She said we’d talk about it. There was something ominous about that and I knew it at the time.
The show was fantastic, but she was cool towards me and shifted uncomfortably in the seat—like someone who knows they should be thrilled but cannot work up any genuine emotion let alone fake it. Something was on her mind, and as soon as the show was done I asked her about my couch proposition and she said we’d talk about it later (after I got back from Chicago) and I told her, “No, we’re talking about it now.”
A new pastor just got hired. “How’s that going?” I asked Tonto. He shrugged, “It’ll be fine, but it’s hard for a guy to lead when he’s gone through so little suffering.” I was taken aback. “How do you know he’s gone through so little suffering?” I asked. Tonto: “I know the guy personally. He grew up in a stable, loving home, got good grades all the way through college. He’s happily married with a couple of kids, and now leads a church after a couple years on the job.” “Oh,” I say, “that does sound nice.”
Before I discovered Tom Waits, Titus Andronicus, and the Rolling Stones, I use to be a big Jars of Clay fan. They were a solid 90s Christian band and they’re still kicking out the albums although I haven’t kept up with them. In 2003 they released Who We Are Instead. As a thirteen year old kid, I listened to it often that year and still occasionally go back for another spin. The track “Faith Enough” especially haunted me at the time. The song embodied one of the elements I liked about the band: their ability to take a beating, feel the hurt, but not turn into pansies about it; or worse, slap the Jesus bandaid on the suffering and call it a day. I mean, sure, Jesus, but that’s a vague comfort when you’re in the shit. Continue reading
January. Cold. Upper West Side. On the stoop of my penal colony, I smoke my cigarette and swig beer from a plastic bag-clad can of beer.
I got my mother on the phone (she doesn’t know yet of my exile) and we are chatting—about what I don’t recall. This is a normal night for me. Normal, that is, until two cops come sauntering down the street towards me. There’s a slight change in their direction and now they’re headed my way.
“Mom,” I say, “I’m going to have to call you back. Two cops are coming my way.” Click. I suppose that’s not the most reassuring way to tell your mother good-bye.
“Hello, sir,” goes the big burly officer with a crew cut. “Hello,” I respond pleasantly. “Is that your beer can, sir?” he asks. I pause, amused, and glance down at the plastic bag. I’m in a good mood (just enough to drink) and a bad liar. So I cop to it with an oh-shucks-you-got-me expression: “Yeah, that’s mine.” The woman with him asks me for my ID and I comply: “Sir, we just need to see if you have any outstanding warrants.” “Ok,” I say with a chuckle, knowing nothing will come up. Continue reading
January of last year I found myself living on the Upper West Side with a 40 year old Indian mother and her two year old kid. It was an odd arrangement born of tragedy and the light at the end of the tunnel was only a pinprick.
I was there because my wife had kicked me out. She was there because hurricane Sandy had destroyed her home and she had just divorced her husband. Like a pair of shipwreck survivors we clung to this driftwood of an apartment in the projects.
My room was only sort of my own as she needed the space for her son during the day. The apartment was full of the detritus of her previous home. The bathroom in particular was problematic as she used it for storage, which meant that I occasionally couldn’t take a shower because it was periodically full of stuff. One particularly memorable episode required me to crawl over boxes and then balance precariously to take a pee at the toilet.
As this year’s election process carries on, I (as an independent who has never voted R or D) am more and more convinced that we are all living in the closest example yet of reality being split into two separate universes. In Universe A there is an insane racist who attacks the families of war heroes and wants to open internment camps for the purpose of religio-ethnic cleansing running against a genius and misunderstood policy wonk with the biggest resumé since the guys who actually penned the founding documents. In universe B there is a flawed but honest candidate who can bring America into a golden age running against a hell-woman who bathes in the blood of young virgins to keep her skin looking fresh for her meetings with the Saudi princes to whom she plans to sell the United States of America. Both of these scenarios are ridiculous and have little basis in reality, but that’s no fun. Reality is boring.
I often find myself in the odd position of siding with the evidence that points toward this boring middle ground. I don’t believe Trump is a crazed neo-fascist racist. I don’t believe Hillary is some demon-spawned war criminal. I also don’t think Trump can fulfill much if any of his promises, and I don’t think Hillary is some kind of hyper-intelligent policy genius. But who would want to live in that world? It lacks the thrills of Universe A or B. But where do universe A or B come from? The quickest answer is: the media. Simply put, the media doesn’t want anything to be boring. They make money off of sensationalism and intrigue, and the facts of reality are often inconvenient for maintaining that profit margin. Another answer is the political cycle. The more dire the alternative, the more of a push to fight for your side.
Donald Trump has bungled his response to Khizr Khan, and I think it is pretty obvious. The biggest reason for this was due to one of his most significant weaknesses: his inability to say nothing. Having watched Khan’s speech at the DNC I can say that it was pretty much a non-factor. As far as speeches go it was not great. The media has been going on and on about how powerful it was, but I don’t really see it. Obviously their son’s sacrifice is something to be respected and not belittled, but that’s not the issue here. Is seems to me that there were two good ways Trump could have dealt with Khan’s claim that he “sacrificed nothing and no one” for America.