Checking In

Image courtesy McSweeney’s: https://twitter.com/mcsweeneys

How’s everyone’s spring going? Got that shot in the arm yet? Got two? Convaxulations! Me, I got the AstraZeneca and achieved full not-clotting status with only minimal worrying. Who knows what my second dose will be. I’m hoping it’ll be a combination of Pfizer and Marlboro cigarettes.

During my time away from my weekly column, I’ve been fitfully working on my novel manuscript. About a month ago it passed the 50,000-word mark, which I always like because then I can tell myself I just wrote The Great Gatsby. It’s at 76,000 now; if it were a human, it would be in its teenage years, all pimples, angst and lack of self-confidence.

I don’t so much have a writing routine as a writing stab-in-the-dark: when I’m not exhausted from work or the low-grade anxiety of life in 2021, I find a space, sometimes on the bed, stretch out with the laptop on my lap (one of those rare times when it really truly is a lap-top) and write until I lose feeling in my legs. Don’t kid yourself; I’m 55, so this is probably a thousand words, max.

Unlike my first novel, I’m not revising as I go, barely re-reading what I’m writing, in fact. This could be a terrible idea, we’ll see. I’m also allowing the characters more freedom to direct the plot rather than have an end point for them to get to. Again, this may not be a good idea. But the benefit of taking time between writing sessions is that these characters marinate in my head. By the time I get down to actual writing, I have an idea what they’re going to do. Sometimes, though, they surprise me. That’s fun. That’s magic!

Am I missing my weekly newspaper column and posts here on this blog? I can’t say I am, honestly, probably because the larger project has taken up most of the available creative air space. I’ve also had time to write some shorter pieces that have found publication elsewhere. In March, there was Christopher CrossFit FAQs at McSweeney’s. I got to riff on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in April (AITA For Not Wanting to Be Seen with My Donkey-Headed Boyfriend?), and this week I’m there again to celebrate Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday and also to benefit from my lifelong misconception that Blood on the Tracks referred to literal blood on train tracks. The result is Bob Dylan’s Zombie Blood on the Tracks.

Finally, I had my first appearance at HAD, which is a very cool and weird journal of creative writing, mostly short. They accept submissions only during brief windows announced on Twitter, so you creative writer types should follow them as well. My piece is entitled Simple Mnemonic for Remembering Pi to the 30th Decimal.

My three-month hiatus from my newspaper column is supposed to end next week. Will it? I have to decide.

Other than that, got out camping, readied my garden and did not replace my toilet. I’m living my best life. You?

Posted in Reading? Ugh! | 23 Comments

Dear John (and Margaret and Doreen and Larry and Alphonse and…)

It’s not you, it’s me.

Shush, shush. No, don’t speak…

It was 17 years ago on this very day that we first ran across each other.* Do you remember? You were a longstanding, traditional newspaper readership and I was a fresh-faced columnist with a particularly bad head shot. Remember how suspicious you were of me at first? “Is this guy kidding?” you asked. Yes. Yes, most of the time I was.

Soon we came around to appreciating each other—me grateful to you for taking the time to read me every Thursday, you tolerating the occasional fart joke.

We had some laughs, didn’t we? That time in May 2006. A light chuckle on August 18, 2009. And who can forget the run of titters between February and April 2011?

Also: “titters.” Continue reading

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Christopher CrossFit FAQs

What is Christopher CrossFit?

Christopher CrossFit is an adult-oriented fitness program for men, women, and bodacious cowboys that focuses on strength, conditioning, endurance, and sailing. The program is specifically designed for people in the night whose bodies are weak and those on the run with no time to sleep. They’ve got to ride — ride like the wind — to be free again. Christopher CrossFit is a Toto workout that guarantees rock-hard abs and buns of Steely Dan. Christopher CrossFit: Never Be the Same.

Read more of my latest at: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/christopher-crossfit-faqs

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Border Story Story

Library. Border. Pots.

DERBY LINE, Vt. — For generations, the sleepy towns of Stanstead, Quebec, and Derby Line, Vermont, have slumbered together in the proverbial twin beds of neighboring border communities. Most of the time, the two towns have dreamed their separate dreams and not worried about hogging the political covers or drooling on each other’s soci-economic pillow. On special occasions, such as anniversaries or after a couple of drinks, those beds have been pushed together and the relationship, like this metaphor, has become more intimate.

But in recent months, a presence has disrupted these napping neighbors like a cat slurping lustily at its loins at 2:00 a.m. Life in Stanstead and Derby Line has become a nightmare. A Nightmare on Canusa Street, for this border community has become overrun by a pernicious yet mostly polite presence: journalists.

Journalists have descended on this border community—once drowsy, now sullen at the breakfast table—to write stories about the border. And increasingly, there are reporters writing stories about reporters writing stories about the border. This is one of those stories. Continue reading

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Sizzlin’ Pop

Guys! Hey, guys! Ohmigod, guess what? No, seriously, guess. Parachute pants are coming back in style? No. Rudy Giuliani was stuffed into parachute pants and then dropped out of a plane without, ironically, a parachute? I wish! But no.

You ready?

I’m hot.

It’s been proven by science! And by “science” I mean “a board game,” which is just like science because it has rules and a lot of people fight over it.

I’ve sometimes suspected I might be hot. August 7, 1983, I thought I was hot, because of the Adidas shorts and the gym socks. Then there was that time that girl was leering at me in Tim Hortons but it turned out she was only ogling my cruller. Thursdays between 2:34 and 2:36 pm, like clockwork, I think I’m hot.

I admit there have been times when I’ve wondered whether I’ve passed the age of being potentially hot, but then I remember that I’m not a woman and am allowed to be hot well into my sixties or even my Sean Conneries.

Still, I’ve never known for sure. But now I do. Thanks to my daughter.

That sounds weird: thanks to my daughter’s friends. Continue reading

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments