Fuck your offense

You’re offended?

I’m offended that you’re offended.

You want to pantomime outrage over the latest thing some D-list celebrity said. This world is falling apart, and you’re fighting over words.

Middle class incomes have flat-lined for the past half-century, while workers put in more hours and produce more than ever. Meanwhile, millionaires have become billionaires, while raiding the public treasury to bankrupt social safety-net programs.

Overt racism and antisemitism are somehow fashionable again, and blatantly nationalist autocrats are taking over Western democracies. The Statue of Liberty has put down her torch to raise a middle finger to the huddled masses of the world.

The global environment is doing its level-best to emulate the Book of Revelation, as temperatures warm, species die, and oceans rise.

And you are bothered over whether someone used the correct pronoun.

Fuck your feelings. Fuck your offense.

Chicken fingers and heroin

My brother died on Monday.

That is to say, he did not die on Monday. He died, but not on Monday. Maybe on Friday or Saturday. Possibly even Sunday. Not on Monday.

But he was found on Monday.


His death certificate will say he died on Monday. His obituary says he died on Monday. The coroner says he died on Monday. But he did not die on Monday.

It figures, he would find a way to scam a day or two or three extra out of life.

He was found on Monday because people were concerned, in bold type, because it was not like him not to speak to people for three days.

(By that same rationale, it could be decades before someone finds me.)

Pulling up to the drive-thru speaker, I waffle for a moment between the three chicken-finger plate or the five chicken-finger plate. I’m not hungry enough for five, but the five chicken-finger plate comes with a large drink. The three chicken-finger plate only comes with a medium. I am really thirsty. But I settle for three and ask to upgrade to a large drink.

I’m decisive like that, and more than willing to demand what I really want.

“I’m sorry, but we are temporarily closed due to the power outage,” a woman says through the speaker.

She says this through a speaker powered by electricity, mind you. She says this from a building that is blazing white-hot light from many more bulbs than absolutely necessary, directly into my eyeballs.

“Thank you,” I say and drive away.

My brother died in his bed. It was a bed of needles and powder and pills and shit.

The needles and powder and pills are there because that’s what killed him. They are appropriate because that is how he lived.

The shit is there because he shit himself when he died. That is appropriate because he shit everything else while he lived.

He was 42.

He was 42, and I am 49, and my parents are 70 and 77. He “was” because he no longer is, in the most basic sense of being. I “am” and my parents “are,” because we still are, in the most basic sense of being.

His “was” and my parents’ “are” are the reason I am so angry at him. My own “am” is only an afterthought.

I find another chicken-finger place. They have the option for four chicken fingers. I feel like the Hand of Providence has guided me to this place at this moment.

I order my four chicken fingers. And a large drink. I feel accomplished.

“Will that be all?” another voice says through electricity and speaker.

“Yes,” I reply.

“OK, what else do you want?” the voice comes back.

With confusion, I say, “Nothing. That is all.”

The Hand of Providence has a sense of humor.

I was there when my brother was found.

That is to say, I was not there precisely when he was found, but a few minutes later. Maybe 30 minutes. I could have been there maybe five minutes earlier, but I took a wrong turn going there, then compounded it with another wrong turn.

It’s not like I missed anything by getting there five minutes later. He was still dead when I got there.

I knew he was dead, before I knew he was dead. I guess you would say I feared he was dead, before I knew he was dead. But I knew it.

Another relative found him. He had been asked to check on him. He banged on the door and got no answer. Finally, he used a spare key, went inside, and found him. Dead.

When I got there, he met me in the driveway, the rims of his eyes swollen and red. I asked him what was going on.

“He’s gone.”

I absorbed the news. I accepted it. Then I second-guessed it.

“Gone” could mean other things. He could have left. He could be extremely intoxicated. Those are two other meanings of “gone.” I am sure there are more. I needed confirmation.

“So … He’s dead?” I asked.

With the least amount of confirmation possible, he nodded his head. It was a staccato nod, with short, fast, jerky movements up and down. This guy …

Still, I figured it was the most I would get. I re-absorbed. I re-accepted. I did no more guessing.

And I felt numb. I wanted to feel sadness and pain, but I was numb. I began asking myself what I was supposed to do during a “time like this.” I began to feel very inadequate and ill-prepared for the “time like this.”

So, I did things, and maybe none of them were right. I went inside. I went outside. I stood. I sat. I paced. I talked to police. I talked to the coroner.

I answered a lot of questions. Yes, my brother has (had) a drug problem. No, I hadn’t spoken to him lately. Yes, he tried to get clean. No, he wasn’t very good at it. Yes, he lived here alone. No, he didn’t have a wife/girlfriend/son/daughter. This is (was) his phone number. This is my phone number. This is my parents’ phone number. Here is my address, their address.

One thing I did not do is go upstairs, to my brother’s bedroom, where my brother was. I did not want my final image of him to be exactly how he really was. I prefer my final images served with a side of naiveté.

At some point, I remembered I needed to tell my parents. They were the ones who wanted someone to check on him, after all.

I called. My dad answered. “It’s not good,” I told him. “He’s gone,” I told him. I waited for tears or screams or anger or questions.

“Oh, shit,” was all that came.

But that “oh, shit” contained more tears and screams and anger and questions than you would reasonably think possible in two one-syllable words.

At some point, a friend from work, my closest friend from work, came to be with me during the “time like this,” because I was now a person people needed to be with, for some reason. In the days to come, I would discover more people who needed to be with me, and I felt like it was all very unnecessary, until they were gone.

We stood outside and waited. I kept my back turned to the door, so as not to see something accidentally.

My dear friend stood with me, one hand tucked under my left arm, the other constantly rubbing my left shoulder. “You’re going to be OK,” she told me. “I’m going to stay here with you during this,” she said. It felt odd to me, and I didn’t feel like I really needed someone to be with me, to comfort me.

But I welcomed it, all the same. Fell face-first into it and allowed it to envelop me.

I pulled up to the window. My large drink came out. My debit card went in. My bag of chicken fingers came out. The clerk did whatever she typically does to cards.

Handing my card back out the window, she asked, “Do you want your receipt?”

I looked up at her, our eyes locking. I could feel the questions in my eyes, searching for something, before resigning myself to not finding it here.

With a long, lingering “no,” I took my card and drove away, defeated.

A year without a Super Bowl

My whole life, the Super Bowl has been an oversized event. Before I was really even a fan of football, I was still drawn to the spectacle. When I grew up, it became an annual holiday in our house — a day devoted to sacking out on the couch and gluttonously devouring trays of pizza rolls, potato skins, cheese sticks, barbecue meatballs and chips and dip.

All of which is to say that this year, the first year I’ve consciously avoided the game, feels rather strange.

You see, I’m a Saints fan. I really don’t need to go into the details of how the Saints were robbed of a chance to play in the game, by a referee’s refusal to call a penalty during the NFC championship game between the Saints and Rams. I mean, when someone as deluded as this guy recognizes the Saints got a bum deal, you know it must have been pretty bad.

The NFL’s refusal to do anything about this travesty — to barely even acknowledge it, even — left me in a quandary. Stick to a tradition of going on 40 years? Or support my Saints and sit this one out?

Even this morning, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Nothing about the game appealed to me. I can usually find a reason to invest myself in one team or the other, but not this year. But the Rams didn’t deserve to be there, and who the hell wants to see the Patriots win another?

Still, the Super Bowl

Several hours before kickoff, I figured I would probably end up turning on the game and half-heartedly watching it. I mean, the Saints are my team, but this is the Super Bowl!

But when it came time, I just didn’t have the stomach to do it.

Instead, I slept through the first half (I work third shift), and when I woke up, I browsed the internet, made a salad, turned on an episode of The X-Files.

Still, I couldn’t stop myself from asking Siri periodically for score updates.

Now, I’m glad I didn’t watch. For starters, it feels good to maintain my principles. And beyond that, from what I understand, this was one of the most pathetic Super Bowls in history. Fewest points ever. The Rams’ offense didn’t show for the game, allowing a subpar Patriots performance to — yawn — once again claim the trophy. The halftime show, so I’m told, was the worst ever. And I’m seeing that even this year’s commercials were lame.

All of which is to say, maybe don’t screw over a town that has voodoo on their side?

Where I’ve been, where I am, where I hope to go

So, why do I think I want to be a writer, anyway?

It isn’t a matter of wanting to be a writer. All my life, I’ve been a writer. I think it’s safe to say I can communicate far better and far more easily through writing than through speaking to someone in person.

I just don’t have much to show for it.

I take that back. I have a long history of writing, having worked as a journalist for the past 27 years, the first 22 in newspapers, the last five in television. I write and I write and I write.

Just not what I want.

Well, that’s not entirely fair. I do like my job and I have written several things which have given me pride. But for the most part, I’m telling other people’s stories. Perhaps with my own style, but they are not my stories.

I would like to change that. I would like to bring the dozens of ideas that have been simmering below the surface to fruition.

And I admit, this short post is simply a way for me to satisfy my daily writing requirement. I think I’ve done that now, so now I have to get back to the business of life.

This habit-forming stuff is difficult.

And so it begins …

If you’ve happened to stumble upon this blog by accident, I make no promises for what you’ll find here.

This site is an experiment for me. It is a way for me to judge once and for all if I really want to be the writer I’ve dreamed of being for the past 35 years or so.

I recently read a book, Every Single Day, about how to achieve the things about which you dream. It comes in just shy of 200 pages, but its essence can be boiled down into a couple of sentences.

It’s like this — whatever it is you want to do, start doing it. How often? (Spoiler alert) Every single day. It doesn’t matter if you feel ready (you probably aren’t). It doesn’t matter if you feel good enough (you probably aren’t). It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Just start doing it. And do it every single day. Whether it’s writing or exercise or becoming a chess grandmaster, just start doing it. Every single day. You have to start somewhere, right? So start now, start today, and fake it until you make it. Every single day.

Eventually, you will be ready, you will feel good enough, and people will notice a positive change in you, as you become a better version of yourself — the version you always wanted to be but were afraid to be.

And if not, if you fail, then maybe that wasn’t what you really wanted to do in the first place. Maybe you have to find another dream and pursue it. Every single day.

At least, that’s what I got from the book. And that’s what I hope to do for myself by following that advice.

So here I am, Feb. 1, 2019, starting to write, every single day. We’ll see how it goes.