Interlude: Meet the reporter

Well Fauxhasset, as your reporter, I’ve always believed my role is to be something of a mystery – a trusted voice more than an individual with an actual personality and life. But one of your fellow readers, Ket at Cynical Souls, has nominated me for the Blue Sky Tag and requested to know a little more about me. So without further ado, here are the answers to Ket’s questions.

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Just dropped in to say “hi.”

  1. Are you in love with someone? Tell me about it.
    President Jimmy Garoppolo. But don’t tell.
  1. Do you like the rain?
    Rain? I remember rain. In Fauxhasset, all we have is snow. Snow forever. Thousands of inches of snow.
  1. What’s the one thing you can’t imagine life without?
    Squirrels. Damn useful creatures (clear snow, carry mail) and adorable, to boot!
  1. Have you ever felt like the third wheel?
    I haven’t made enough friends in Fauxhasset to be someone’s third wheel. Speaking of which, is anyone free this Friday?
  1. If you could go back in time with your current memory, would you? Do remember that everything you change in the past will completely change your future.
    This one’s tough because, as far as I can tell, my life began in medias res sometime in October of last year. I can’t remember anything before that. And I don’t know if I want to. I mean, what if there was a good reason I forgot – like, something terrible happened, and I took the blue pill on purpose? On the other hand, if something terrible did happen, maybe I would be able to prevent it by going back.
  1. Who is your favorite artist? (Music)
    LOVE DJ Huzkiii. We’ve also got some great up-and-coming DJs in Fauxhasset, as the police department has been training personnel to make sick loops with the sirens in the cruisers.
  1. Do you read books? What genre do you prefer? IF NOT, do you watch any TV shows?
    Common to both: Would you prefer a book over a movie or vice versa?
    As a writer, I’m more of a reader than a watcher. I love sci-fi and fantasy. It’s always nice to imagine that something even wilder could be going on outside of the crazy little town I cover!
  1. If there was one place you could be, where would you be?
    We all know Fauxhasset is the most incredible place in the universe. ϨΔиϮα said so, and that guy’s been to the Orion Nebula, the Butterfly Galaxy, and even (so he says) forward in time to the heat death of the universe.
  1. If you were to get into a relationship with someone, would how his looks matter?
    He should look like President Jimmy Garoppolo.
  1. Tell me a little about the kind of person you’re in love with/wanna fall in love with.Jacked
    Industrious
    Masculine
    Monogamous
    Young at heart

    Good with kids
    Athletic
    Resourceful
    Opportunistic
    Passionate
    Presidential
    Opposable thumbs
    Literate
    Overhand throw is on point

  1. Do you like adventures? Tell me a few of you adventurous experiences. IF NOT, What are your hobbies?
    Adventures are great! I love adventures. I haven’t had much chance to go on any since coming to Fauxhasset, but I did recently go snowboarding with ϨΔиϮα and Dooey Lembas. Would love to go for a ride-around in ϨΔиϮα’s spaceship. As for hobbies, I love dancing – and did I mention we have great DJs in Fauxhasset? I also enjoy being out in nature. It’s always interesting checking out the wildlife in the Womp.

The rules for this tag are:

  • Thank the person (people) who nominated you.
  • Answer their 11 questions.
  • Tag 11 people.
  • Give them 11 questions to answer.

Here are the nominees:

  1. Bitter Ben, who will probably hate me for this, especially question 4.
  2. Greater Boston, because I want to pretend that Alexander Danner is my friend.
  3. Little Fears, in hopes that his answers are as bizarre and silly as his doodles.
  4. Matt, because it’s always nice to get to know a neighbor.
  5. Colin McMahon, who’s probably too cool and professional for this, but I met him once and he made me write a thing, so hi Colin, and thanks.
  6. Asha, whose poetic style shines even when she’s just writing a review.
  7. Gwen Eleanor, because her sunny hygge perspective is so different from the fog of anxiety I live in and I want to see more.
  8. The Slingsta, because he thinks hygge is bunk and I want to hear his perspective too!
  9. This space intentionally left blank in loving memory of “Welcome to Skaamoog,” another small-town satire blog that now seems to have dropped off the web T_T
  10. Bklynmike, because I love how he sees the world… his photos could almost convince me to visit Brooklyn. Almost.
  11. Rupert. Now here’s a guy with stories to tell.

Here are your questions:

  1. How did you get started blogging?
  2. What is your spirit animal or Patronus?
  3. What’s something you do when you’re stressed?
  4. Describe something good that happened to you recently. Could be a perfect day or just a moment. Something that fed your soul.
  5. What is your preferred footwear?
  6. Name a great book you’ve read in the past year that you would recommend.
  7. Name a great band or album you’ve listened to this year that you would recommend.
  8. Coffee, tea, or other?
  9. What do you always carry in your wallet/purse?
  10. What are you afraid of?
  11. Final question is selfish! What’s your favorite thing about Fauxhasset, and what would you like to see me write about more, or introduce?

My teacher said I couldn’t be a writer.

Middle school was the first time someone told me I couldn’t be a writer. Thankfully, it was also one of the only times, but it still had a profound impact.

It was a teacher who said it. He didn’t mean that I wasn’t good enough; even then, I knew that wasn’t what he meant. What he meant was that “being a writer” is a gamble. You might make it; you might not. Your paycheck, if you get one, will never be for the same amount twice, and until you’re J.K. Rowling, that’s going to be a source of instability, stress and hardship.

Of course, even at 12 or whatever I was, I understood that. I knew what a starving artist was and that I was probably going to be one. But I also believed I could play the game and eventually get noticed. Instead of giving me the tools to win that game, my teacher simply said, “You can’t really ‘be a writer.’

As my friend who has never cursed in her life said, “That’s bullshit.”

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Of course you can “be a writer.” It just means that, on top of writing creatively in your work-time, you also have to live and budget creatively in your off-time. To this day, I wonder how my career might be different if, instead of saying “You can’t,” my teacher had said, “It’s going to be hard, but here are the ways you can.”

Maybe, as a computer technology teacher, he just didn’t know the ways. Maybe, within the confines of the assignment, he just felt that “being a writer” was going to over-complicate things – we were supposed to be creating some sort of ten-year plan for our future, complete with a household budget, which is admittedly difficult to build on an unreliable artist’s paycheck.

But that’s exactly why I needed him to say “here’s how” instead of “you can’t.” Because I was never going to change what I wanted to do. I’ve always been good at writing, and I’ve always wanted to do it for a living. Fifteen years later, I’m still not sure how, and I no longer have the disposable time and energy I had back then for trial and error.

I’m sure my teacher wasn’t taking the assignment that seriously. I’m sure he didn’t expect any of the kids to take it that seriously. It’s not like any of us were going to actually take this ten-year plan with us to high school, college, and the distant, hazy “real life” beyond.

I guess I’ve always taken things too seriously.

For the assignment, I compromised and said I would become a journalist, silently swearing that, in real life, I would never compromise and become a journalist. But then I grew up and still didn’t know how to “be a writer,” so I compromised and became a journalist.

As I expected, there aren’t any dragons or spaceships in journalism. Instead of princesses in castles, I write about millionaires and the mansions their neighbors won’t let them build. Instead of finding water on a faraway planet, I write about finding enough water for my town to drink in the drought. Instead of evil villains, I write about politicians – which some would say is the same thing, but it’s not. Not at all.

I’m exactly as happy as my 12-year-old self, thought I would be. It’s writing. It pays the rent. I’m trying, on the side, to find the time and energy to pursue what really matters to me, but most days, it takes everything I have just to survive my day job.

Would things have been different if my teacher had seized that teachable moment and given me some goals to work toward, even then, as young as I was – back when the stakes were so low, when staying up all night to work on a story was exciting, not exhausting? Maybe, maybe not. That moment in tech class was one of many, many moments that shaped me. Most of those moments were good. I can’t, and won’t, blame this one for where I am (or am not) today.

So it might be taking longer than I thought. I might not be famous yet. Or ever. I still don’t know where I’m going or how to get there, any more than I did when I was 12. But there’s something else that hasn’t changed: I still believe I can.

I’ll take the starving; just give me the art.


This post originally appeared on the Odyssey Online.

How a homeless person reminded me to follow my dreams

If you’re familiar with the MBTA at all, you know that riding the subway is not typically an inspiring experience, and I didn’t ask it to be; I was just riding around because I was feeling too weird and anxious to sit still in my apartment any longer.

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[Photo credit: Eric Kilby]

Truth be told, I was supposed to be writing this article, but every time I looked at my computer screen, I felt the anxious vacuum start to form behind my eyebrows and in my gut, and I had to put it away. This had been going on for two days. I hadn’t written a thing, creative or otherwise – and yes, my job is to write, and no, I hadn’t written anything for the paper, either.

I used to write like breathing. Sometimes I wonder if I still can. Sometimes I think I’ve lost the spark.

Sitting next to a homeless man on the train changed all that.

To be fair, I don’t know for sure that the man was homeless. When I boarded, he was sitting in that recumbent way that people who don’t own a bed tend to have when they ride the T late at night. It’s a particular posture of rest, which says, “I’ve been riding this train since Alewife and I won’t be going anywhere until we reach the end of the line. Maybe longer, if nobody kicks me out.” He wasn’t asleep, but he seemed to be headed that way.

He was swaddled in layers to the point that I actually wasn’t sure whether he was a man, since I couldn’t make out the shape of his body or the contours of his face. I’m too progressive to declare he was a man based on his choice of footwear (heavy boots, and large), or that she was a woman based on her medium-length white hair and lack of beard. In the end, I needed a pronoun and went with “he” based on his broad, flat fingernails, which is as arbitrary as anything else, I suppose, and I’m sorry.

So I didn’t know if he was a “he,” and I didn’t know if he was homeless. But I knew one thing without a doubt: he smelled. It wasn’t a “hasn’t showered in weeks” kind of smell. It was pee. And it was absolutely overwhelming.

I realized it just an instant too late as I was already lowering myself into the next seat. All right, the next-next seat – in Boston, we sit every-other-seat on trains because we hate everyone, so there was, in fact, some space between me and the presumably-homeless presumably-man. But it was still too close.

As I sat there, breathing as little as possible, a barrage of emotions hit me one after the other – not unlike train cars, I imagine, if you’ve ever been run over by a train.

First, I felt torn: I really wanted to get up and sit somewhere else. But I thought about how I would feel if, every time someone sat down near me, they immediately got up and left. Repulsive. Worthless. Not human. I couldn’t do that to this person. So I stayed.

Then, sadness: how sad that we live in a world where people can’t afford to be clean – to shower, to use a proper toilet, to wash or replace their clothing. What is this world, where a subway car looks like a nice place to catch a few Zs? Sure, it’s air-conditioned in summer, heated in winter, and dry in the rain, but those seats are hard. And in less than an hour, you’ll be at the end of the line and your nap will be over.

Then the guilt hit. Who was I to complain? If I thought it was bad sitting next to this person, how must it feel to be in his shoes? Instead, I should have been doing something to help. But what? It’s not like I’d brought any spare clothing with me. I’ve been known to give food to people on the street when I’m walking home with leftovers, or even to treat them at the nearest McDonald’s – but since I, like he, was just riding the train, I didn’t have leftovers, either. I didn’t even have cash.

So, simply, I sat. I told the judge in my head to shut up: you don’t know what his story is or how he got here. Maybe he has no family. Maybe he’s mentally ill. Maybe he’s a veteran. Or maybe, against all logic that I could understand, maybe he chose to live like this; crazier things have happened.

I had no money, but I gave him all I could give, what little respect I could show, and stayed beside him. And then he gave me something so much more.

He took out a notebook. One of those spiral-bound things you can get at Walgreens for 99 cents. And he took out a pen. It had purple ink. I know this because he started writing furiously – chicken scratch, cross-outs, line upon line. He filled a whole page, his hand never resting. I couldn’t read a word of it and found myself suddenly fighting a very different urge: to lean closer, not further away, to see what a person such as this had to say.

Would he write of his own life, his daily trials and victories? Observations of the people and things around him? Philosophical thoughts? The train, as I was busily proving myself, is a good place for philosophical introspection.

Or, perhaps, he was writing fiction. Maybe he was building another world where things were better, where people like him could overcome a place like this. Or maybe it wasn’t escapism. Maybe he just loved the telling. Maybe he gave up everything and everyone to do this, to chase this incredible passion and to have this incredible freedom.

Of course, I also had to consider the possibility that it was the ramblings of a madman.

Whatever he’d written, there was something burning inside of this character in the next-next seat that I hadn’t seen from afar, when I’d taken him for just a sleeping homeless guy. And I hadn’t seen it close-up, either, too busy pitying him to really look at who was underneath the bulky layers and the stink.

Not every light burns at the same time or in the same way. Sometimes all that’s left is an ember. And sometimes that ember gutters and fades under the harsh blue glare of a computer screen. But it is still there, and if you feed it, it will grow. What was this man feeding to his ember, when he had so little? And what will I feed to mine – I, who have so much?


This post originally appeared on the Odyssey Online.