Monday, August 31, 2009


People about the tattoo on my forearm all the time (apologies for the cellphone picture, but my wife got the camera in the divorce settlement). It’s a cute one, for sure. The other day at my new book club, the coordinator asked if it had anything to do with Rita Mae Brown's cutesy cat detective series. Turns out Rita Mae – whose Venus Envy I enjoyed very much – broke up her grandparents’ marriage. I assured my new book club boss that it had nothing to do with Sneaky Pie Brown.

Zopie’s Caffeine Fix was a basement coffee shop on S.U. hill, below a frat bar called Harry's. It was filled with smoke, student art, books, and live music and poetry. I tell people the tattoo is similar to their logo and it reminds me of home. In the actual logo, the cat had a lit cigarette dangling from its mouth.   I still remember going there for intense debate fueled by caffeine and nicotine, reading poetry on open mic nights (God help us), and seeing my friends play music.

A fractious relationship with the landlord (and owner of Harry's bar) kept Zopie's on shakey ground until Starbucks moved in two blocks away and buried it completely.

But the tattoo means more than memories. I love the idea of ascribing human desires on animals, the stupid addictions and interactions we obsess over which mean nothing to cats. I’ve spent hours crafting a painting I’ve loved only to have my cat sharpen his claws on it. This keeps me humble. What’s the importance of my painstaking efforts in the grand scheme of things? Not so much.

Today is the day of my final walkthrough on the Treehouse. The real estate agents and I will inspect the modest space, note any flaws, and I’ll get the keys to my new place. It will take all of eight minutes to say goodbye to my old life.

Every time I think I’m done being surprised, some new development knocks me on my ass. When I think I’ve shed my last tear and really moved on, another jag hits me by surprise. I suppose it would be odd if I was completely healed at this point, but I’m tired of even brief moments of misery. I’m excited at the changes in my life, and I’d like to focus on that.

Unfortunately, although my wife rang this bell, she’s finding it much harder to stop the vibrations. She’s looking to me for support, and I’m the last person who wants to be a friend to her right now.

After a decidedly odd weekend, I’m looking at a Google map of how to get to my new studio, feeling sorry for myself, when Minime jumps on the counter and flops down on my paper. Minime knows she’s coming to the Treehouse with me. She’ll finally be the only woman in my life, the way she’s always wanted. Covering the map with her furry little body, she gives me that half-lidded, I’m so over this look, as only cats can. Her half-grunt, half-meow is filled with disdain.

“What’s with the moping?” she wants to know. “You eat, you sleep, you lick yourself, you move on. Stop making everything so complicated.”

I can’t argue with that kind of reasoning.

Friday, August 28, 2009

T-Mobile Should Offer Free Marriage Counseling

(Before I start, I’d like to point out that my original title was “Fuck T-Mobile.” The internet is nothing if not extreme, and I struggle not to buy into it.)

If you want your worst moments held up for public scrutiny, become a celebrity or marry a writer. But I’m resisting the urge to get into the reasons why my wife and I no longer have an amicable separation. As satisfying as it would be to write my anger in fiery words for an imaginary internet audience of millions, it wouldn’t be fair to the person I’ve loved for sixteen years. Suffice to say it’s taken months, but we finally have acrimony. We are the stereotypical couple who can’t stand to be in the same room.

There are a dozen financial things to take care of, most of them relatively easy. One thing I’ve learned from anonymous customer service, saying your marriage is ending is a great way to get sympathy, and basically whatever you need.

Then, there’s T-Mobile. They are cell phone professionals and I’m not, so maybe I’m in no position to judge. I’m sure they have their reasons for forcing anyone with a joint account to share public space, to work together to dissolve the account and create two new ones. I don’t know, if it’s my business, I’d do whatever I could to double my money, getting paid from two people instead of a couple. But that’s me. Instead, T-Mobile tells me, “Hey? You know the person who when you think about her, a flower of emotional hurt blooms in your stomach? The one who bursts into tears when you look at her? The one who hurt you worse than you imagined possible, who you never want to see again? Well, bring her on by and we’ll see what we can do about getting you those separate accounts.”

Thankfully, we have no children. I have newfound respect for those parents who remain friends, or at least civil, because their children will always connect them. Right now, I really don’t feel like building character. I don’t feel like being nice, or civil. My emotional fabric is stretched tight, and I don’t need T-Mobile making it worse.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In a World Where Everyone Is Safe

There's no group left to persecute on sight. Except smokers. Here's something to think about from Laura Moriarty, who wrote The Center of Everything, a book I enjoyed very much. I have The Rest of Her Life at home as well, but I haven't read it yet.

Anyway, Moriarty was asked to name a book which changed her life. She answered:
"I think every good book I've read has changed me in some small way. A recent example: the other day, I walked past a woman who was sitting and smoking beside a baby carriage. I had a fleeting, negative judgment about her as a mother, and then I remembered one of David Sedaris' stories about his funny and wonderful mother, a chain smoker, and it reminded me that I really didn't know anything about the woman by the carriage or what kind of mother she was."
I know it's tough giving up that last group we're allowed to hate, especially when we're supposed to be so nice to everyone all the time, but let's face it - you're no saint.

The Hardest Part: Knowing When It's Finished

Editing frustrates me. Here’s a little something I wrote in my diary which explains why:

Every house looks the same. The houses all look alike. Each house looks like any other. The houses are interchangeable. The houses are as uniform as scattered pennies. The houses all look the same. I can’t tell which house is which. The houses are as anonymous as their owners. Each house looks the same. All the houses are the same. The houses are all the same. If the houses have even minor differences, it would take an expert in architecture to spot them. Looking at the houses, I can’t tell which is the one I grew up in and which are my neighbors.’ The houses are as like and lifeless as prison cells. Each house looks like every other. The houses share an eerie similarity. The houses are striking in their similarity. The houses are so similar even the residents check the numbers to find their way home. The uniformity of the houses is such that it’s difficult to imagine one of them singled out as a home. Each house is the same. Every house looks alike. The houses are more alike than brothers, making the street difficult to navigate. The houses share a uniformity.
I could go on but you get the idea - every page is a thousand choices. If you wonder why you can’t read my finished novel, now you know.

If you’ve written true in the surrounding sentences, there will be one clear winner. If you haven’t . . . all the houses look the same.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Free Pass

I've signed a lease on a new apartment, where I'll be living alone next month. My wedding ring is on my right hand (I'm waiting until I'm moved out to take it off). I'm sleeping every fourth night. My emotional fragility makes every small kindness a supremely moving gesture. My morning writing time has been reduced to editing, long rants about the state of my marriage, and breakdowns of evenings out with friends.

My friends mean so much to me right now; I can’t believe I ever took them for granted. Knowing how important they are to my happiness, this is a good change.

Exercising more and eating better, this is a good change.

Not taking my ridiculous job so seriously, this is a good change.

Putting work out there for someone other than a friend or a relative, that’s a good change.

I have license right now to do any number of really stupid things, to behave irrationally and lose control and no one would judge me or call my behavior into question. This is a compelling truth.

But the abyss is too deep to dabble in. If I fell, it would be a long time before I hit bottom. It’s ironic that the only reason I’m mature enough to handle the dissolution of my relationship is because it’s been so strong over the years it’s made me who I am.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You Should Read Joyce Maynard

Text from my roommate: "I just finished reading Labor Day. Wow."


This book not only blows your hair back, it's one of those where you immediately want to tell anyone who will listen to put the trash they're reading aside and pick up something worthwhile.  Bonus if you've never read Maynard before (I hadn't) because you're discovering a voice you'll want to hear again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Nine beautiful hours of sleep last night, so rare and effective I realize I forgot to put on deodorant yesterday. I’m thinking, it’s going to be a good day.

Hop on my bike to get to the Gables, sun’s coming up, roads are slick. It’s dark and it’s early and I’m probably taking the turn too quickly. The bike slips from under me, erasing skin from my elbow, dinging my hip, dunking me in puddled rainwater and muck. I’m thinking, what the fuck?

When I’m impressively happy, part of me anticipates the other shoe dropping. Is this because that’s been how my life has been, or is it self-fulfilling sabotage?

I stand up, looking like an egg dipped partially in some new Paas color, Muddy Grey Depression. Blood drips down my elbow. If I wait a few hours for the mud to dry, I’d have a perfect cast of my right foot. I’m slightly more than halfway to work, so the question becomes whether to turn around and clean up or do a shift looking like I just came from shooting a Miller Lite commercial where the men are playing pick-up football in the rain.

By the time I get home for a second shower, the blood on my elbow is dry. To get the mud off, I need to scrub the scabs away as well. On the plus side, I don’t need coffee to wake up. I throw my muddy clothes and some darks in the washer, put on a lesser outfit, and climb on the bike again. Heavy morning commute traffic, sun blazing because of the lateness of the hour. It’s twenty minutes to nine and my morning is shot. There will be no writing. The whole day will feel slightly off.

The second shower doesn’t take. I’m sitting in the buying office at Books & Books, dripping sweat on my keyboard. My elbow is raw and stinging. My thoughts are white noise because I didn’t get to push them into my laptap.

I sigh, and resign myself to working a full day like a normal person.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Thanks, Henry

Everyone loves Susie Horgan’s photograph of Ian MacKaye’s brother. He’s slumped on some stairs, exhausted, shaved head resting on arms folded over bended knees, wearing a jacket and jeans and boots, bottles and party detritus at his feet. It’s a great shot. Minor Threat used it as their album cover. Nike liked it enough to copy it exactly, apart from the footwear.

My favorite picture Susie took of her future famous co-workers is the shot of Henry Rollins standing there wearing a Haagen Dazs t-shit, hat in hands, withering look on his face.
Henry Rollins is not wearing the t-shirt ironically, or because the Salvation Army was selling it on the cheap. He’s wearing it because his boss told him to. He’s wearing it because it’s the uniform. He’s wearing it because he has to, because he’s at work and it’s part of his stupid job to wear a Haagen Dazs t-shirt.  Beyond the composition, I love this picture for the message it sends to me and to all creative types toiling in service jobs – you can make it. You can do your art for a living. It gives me hope.

It’s my desktop background at work. His expression goads me to leave every time I see it. “Really, Aaron, you’re still here?” Henry sighs. “Is this is how you want to spend your time, Aaron? Seriously?”

No, Henry, it’s not.

You’re right, Henry, it’s time to leave for the day. There’s dinner to make, books to read, movies to watch. Life to live.

(thanks, Susie, for letting me use the picture)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

How Could I Forget

Whenever I leave my house I get the feeling I've forgotten something important but easily fixable. My keys or wallet, maybe turning the oven off or calling someone back. Then I remember my marriage is crumbling.

Oh, yeah. Now I remember.

It's like realizing on the way to work that the dream you had last night was just a dream.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cyber Stalking

Poring over the yearbook during summer break, I’d look at the pictures of the girls in our class and imagine their camera-pasted smiles directed toward me. Bonus if I found a candid shot of Tiffany Hile hanging out in the cafeteria or Ellen Hemmerlein bumping a volleyball. How these girls felt about me in real life didn’t matter; rendered in two dimensions, they found a home in my imagination.

Now it’s online. Everyone is a friend of a friend, someone Facebook thinks you should get to know. You read their profile, learn about the best version of themselves. You tag their pictures, wondering how you could have missed them at this or that party. You check their Twitter and their Blog, you Google them and find out they ran a 5K fundraiser for AIDS research.  You don’t need junior high gossip about how so-and-so is easy or has a psycho older brother or only dates blondes, you get virtual truth instead. 

This digital image is compelling, filled with friends, fun, inside jokes, and witty banter. Even the sweaty, lazy-eyed, drunken shots she begs her friends to delete are oddly charming. Click the mouse and imagine whole relationships with near strangers.

I’ve regressed to seventh grade.