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Zach

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Got all these knife-like feelings, heading door-to-door [Nov. 27th, 2009|03:07 am]

I remember one day over the summer I was walking around in the back neighborhood of Tomball my parents live in, just sort of slumming it out where the sprawl met the woods. This was while my life was falling apart in spades. I was a big crumbly building is what. Anyway, I came to where the trees had been cut down in a wide swath to make room for power lines running north, and I remember wanting nothing more than to follow those lines as far as they went, to other neighborhoods, other houses, other lives. To see the other or to be the other, who knows.

It's been awhile since I've blogged about my life. Between now and that moment where I was sweating through my shirt and thinking of a way to disappear—if it was to be marching off into the wilderness or if it was drinking until I had whittled my liver all the way down or if it was filling my pockets with heavy stones and walking into the ocean or what doesn’t matter anymore—but between now and that moment a lot has changed. I get accused all the time of writing autobiography when I write Things That Can’t Be Taken Back, but it’s no more autobiography than anyone’s fiction. Writers cobble stuff together. Some of it is fact, but all of it is true. So it’s kind of funny to me when someone says that I’m so honest and open about my life in my writing. Because it’s not my life, you see. My life is quite different from the things that I write, was quite different, will always be quite different.

So here, I’m saying some things about my life, for those of you who are curious or who I’ve had to leave behind somewhere along the way: For a long time I wanted to die and I was serious. It hurt a lot of people. These days I don’t. The people are still probably hurt. I made a lot of mistakes, and those mistakes are something that I live with and against. Now I’m really pretty happy. I still have anxiety and depression sometimes, and I still have a lot of uncertainty, but it’s like those things skate along the surface most of the time.

I’m proud of the work I’m doing. I think it has value. I get breathless about it and wake up some days feeling like I have sentences to write like it’s stitching up open wounds. I have a lot of wonderful friends. Some of them are as insane as I am, either in general or about putting words to life. I have a few enemies, because it’s fun to have enemies. I give them nicknames and say the cruelest things. I can’t seem to help myself. I’m seeing a girl who thinks I’m swell. I think she’s swell too. I find myself thinking about her in the gaps between other thoughts. These things are all very good for me. What I'm saying is I wouldn't follow the power lines today for anything.

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Some unorganized and unrelated thoughts that need to be flushed out of my head [Oct. 30th, 2009|03:56 pm]

Apocalyptic imagery is all over the place; you just have to know where to look. A plane passing hazily overhead, barely seen through the clouds while sirens blare from a nearby house fire. A wet and dying dog padding through a busy cross street with one milky white eye and blood on its fur. Costumed children lined up and attached to a string, greedy for candy and full of bright-eyed confusion, Bumblebees and Spidermen and Death at the end of the line being herded through town by a witch, a clown, Han Solo. With the right attitude all of this stuff slides into place like a gun click. It’s enough to make a man grow a moustache, just to have some thing to hide behind. Facial hair as a particle board desk during the bomb drill.
__________________________

More often than not, the things we hate about other people turn out to be the things we hate about ourselves. This is a cliché, but clichés are generally true, plus I’m blogging here so that shit is allowed. Anyway, I was thinking how solipsistic and silly that is, like we can’t even hate someone on their own merits. We can’t even put ourselves aside long enough to really loathe a body who deserves it. And then that got me into thinking about phenomenology, which is kind of a ridiculous subset of critical theory, and so then I stopped.
__________________________

I am so tired of irony, and I know full well that I am typing this while wearing an Alvin and the Chipmunks shirt and drinking coffee out of an Epcot Center souvenir mug. What I mean is I’m tired of irony as an ethos. It’s not productive. It’s not even productive in being destructive. It’s just there, a defense mechanism against ever having a real feeling. Even worse, sometimes irony is used to mask the earnestness of a real feeling (for example, that whole stupid goddamn no homo trend, which seems to be meant as an ironic piss-take on homophobia but really just makes homophobia permissible), so the irony becomes that you are presenting your real belief in an ironic fashion, and all of a sudden we’re in meta-irony territory and nothing has meaning ever again. We’re embracing and celebrating fakery and hollowness. Congratulations.
__________________________

I am sort of falling back into that old trap of feeling lousy about myself, which is goddamn silly.
 

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What it means to leave your car in a parking lot and walk home [Oct. 28th, 2009|09:15 am]
I was walking home holding a rock in my hand thrust deep into the pocket of my sweatshirt.  The rock was heavy with all of my anger and with potential energy, like what was it but a tool for burning the world down one window at a time.  It was cold and this part of town had no sidewalks, my feet were slipping in the wet grass, I was alive and looking up at Orion's Belt but not really meaning it.

Or maybe I was early morning hiding away in this coffee shop that was filling up with pastors carrying gold-leaved bibles and wearing terrible Wal-Mart jeans and woven belts.  But that's just the table next to me.  And the rock from before was there, just waiting to get violent and not drinking any of the drip coffee I'd bought it.

Or maybe I was on a balcony somewhere sending text messages and waiting on a response, wondering if the bottle comes back empty or full or if it just sinks to the bottom of the ocean a hundred feet from shore.  The crabs and the starfish and the dead-eyed minnows, they would get it.

Or I was staring back at a security camera thinking that I'm over one-third dead and what?  What what what.  And maybe it'll be a good day, and maybe it won't.  I was watching the camera watching me while some kid with a ridiculous exhaust system ran the light and the rock was thinking about it and settling on what the saddest Mountain Goats lyric is: "I want to go home, but I am home."

It felt good, though.  To slow down.  To walk roads that weren't designed really for walking.  To wait on a train to go by and really feel its presence in the world.  To leave the rock by the tracks alongside my snark and my bitter feelings and walk on.
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what we are doing when we don't much know what we're doing [Oct. 19th, 2009|11:18 pm]

I’m watching out the window of a plane, the way the clouds and the shadows of the clouds on the ground create a diorama of America, of land, of Rocky Mountains, and I’m feeling kind of lousy and hung over and out of ideas. I smell a little of vomit (not mine). The book tour, it was a success as far as I can tell. Mike and Joey tolerated me, I guess, and I sold and signed a lot of books in Seattle and Portland. San Francisco was more Joey’s town, partly because books about gender queer frustrated youth sell well there for some strange reason, and partly because he really nailed the goddamn reading whereas I felt a little off my game. It was kind of a bummer way to end the tour, but that feeling lasted all of five minutes and overall the experience was wonderful.

 

I met a lot of good people and drank a lot of bad beer. Joey got pepper sprayed. We all sat on the roof of our hotel and watched the fog roll in over the Golden Gate bridge. A girl called me and told me she wasn’t going to hang up unless I touched myself. I gave the phone to April. APE wasn’t really my scene, but I had a good time anyway. I promised someone who came to hear us read that I would slap him in the face before the night was over, and then I did. We went to an arcade in Portland where all the games were a quarter. Someone gave us ice cream cake. Most of the details I’ll leave out, because I’m sure Mike and Joey are going to write it all up and exaggerate it, make me look bad in whatever ways they can, then put it in a zine.


I wrote some stuff while I was on the 17 hour hangover train from Portland to San Fran, and I was going to type it up here, but now it does not seem worth it.  So I will not!  Take it easy, Imaginary Audience.
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BOOK TOUR [Oct. 12th, 2009|02:31 pm]

 
Alright, here's the story: tomorrow I'm leaving for west coast leg of The Loose Teeth Press Fall Reading Tour. I'll be hitting up the following dates with the excellent writer (and my future hugmate ) Joey Comeau and notorious publisher/drunk Mike Lecky:
SEATTLE, WA STOP
Tuesday, Oct 13th, 3:00pm
Pilot Books
219 Broaway E
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=138688946286&index=1

PORTLAND, OR STOP
Thursday, Oct 15th, 7:00pm
Reading Frenzy
921 SW Oak St
(I have heard a rumor about free beer at this reading)
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=112788939398&index=1

ALTERNATIVE PRESS EXPO
Oct 17th and 18th
San Francisco, CA
(we'll be hanging out mostly with the Topatoco people)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA STOP:
Sunday, Oct 18th, 4:30pm
Booksmith
1644 Haight St
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=271357790552&index=1

After that, I'll be heading back to my real life at doctoral school, but Mike and Joey will continue on to Los Angeles (and probably Tijuana if we're being honest). They don't have a venue for their LA reading yet, so if you have a place it would be cool if you emailed us.

I hope to see you guys there! Joey's going to read from Overqualified or from Lockpick Pornography or from It's Too Late to Say I'm Sorry, and I'll be reading from my novel Apathy and Paying Rent and a few vignettes here and there. It will be pretty great, probably.
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I am kind of inviting you to dinner with me and a ghost [Sep. 27th, 2009|03:56 pm]


It's odd, the way things are transmitted between people.  I know you don't know what I'm talking about.  I'll back up.

Today I found S+B brand Golden Curry, Medium Hot.  Denton, surprisingly, has kind of a dearth of international foods and weird ingredients.  This is a hippie hipster doofus town; where is my kimbap?  Where is my bean paste?  I mean, if I want beetle larvae in a can, what am I to do?  Drive all the way to Dallas?  An outrage if there ever was one.

I went to four stores, talked to a nice Indian lady about it at one of them.  She explained to me that she had all kinds of curry, but not S+B, and I explained to her that I was extraordinarily white and unadventurous in general (ignore that last paragraph) and a little particular about my goddamn curry.  I told her I might be back.  Eventually, I found three dusty boxes of the stuff behind some rice at the Kroger I don't usually shop at.  A small victory, but a significant and joyous one.  My friend April says that I would say "Well, this is pretty okay" about something like this, the way I do when I am really pleased.  She thinks I am an understater.  It's possible that I probably am.

The first time I had S+B brand curry with pork and vegetables in a kind of stew set up, I have to admit that I found it pretty unremarkable and maybe even awful.  Because of this, it is not a meal I would really drag out in front of friends unless they told me they liked that kind of thing.  But over the years of eating it and making it, the stuff began to grow on me.  Something about the knife sounds against the board while chunking potatoes, the pot bubbling with me stirring and feeling the heat on my face, the essence of the stuff kind of hanging around the house for a day or two afterward, well I guess it became a part of who I was, who I wanted to be.

If you haven't gathered already, the dilemma is one of association.  S+B brand curry is not My Ingredient.  It was transmitted to me through my ex-wife's heritage, served hundreds of times in her childhood home, carrying with it the associations and memories of each of those moments, and now the fact that I'm making it for dinner is surely a statement of regret, in a way.  I'm not sure what to do with that.  Or maybe I am doing it as an act of reclamation.  I'm not sure what to do with that, either.  At any rate it feels significant.

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Some thoughts on the impending finality of my marriage and also another marriage that didn't happen [Sep. 21st, 2009|11:00 pm]

This weekend, one of my new good friends is going to not get married. What I mean is she was going to, but now she is not. She seems quite happy about it, and if I were her I probably would be too—she is not the type to relish in the domestic give-and-take and the easy, unthinking acquiescence that marriage becomes over time. I don’t say this as an affront, because really she is a lovely person and probably the one I have met in the last few weeks that I found myself most easily connected to. But she is one of those people who is stunningly beautiful and knows it, who is casually brilliant and knows it, and it’s not so much that she puts it in front of your face or that these are bad things to know about oneself. It is only that it makes her sharply independent (which I would contend is both strength and weakness, but that’s a debate for another time). My own marriage is due to be legally over in a few short weeks, depending on paperwork and when I can make the trip down to Houston to appear before a judge. So what we have here is, in essence, an abortion for her and a burial for me.

 

So it’s on my mind a lot, the nature of marriage and what mine meant and what it means to her and to others. As a result, I have been having these unspecifically ominous dreams loaded down with guilt and malice that aren’t congruous with the actual plot. In one, Lin told me that she always hated Bright Eyes. So what, right? I can see her argument. But I woke up devastated. In another, I lay in bed all day with some unknown girl who loves me so easily, like it’s breathing, with our bare legs touching, and she gets up and walks into a dark hallway. Again, I woke up devastated. 

 

I have been struggling with a lesson learned is what I think it is, and that lesson keeps getting thrown in my face in all its meanness. In a Christian household, you are raised to think that apologies are the spiritual and psychological equivalent of blank checks, as long as you mean them hard enough. I held this as a valuable truth about life, when really I should have dismissed it as foolishness somewhere around the fifth grade. So when I made my decade long, lumbering, ugly journey toward revelation about self, and when I dragged Lin along, and when we both went about unconsciously eating away at each other, I always held that no matter what happened, I could make it right again, somehow. When I left my home—a  home I no longer felt a part of for reasons it would not be fair to explore in public, particularly from only my point of view, and really what does it matter except to point fingers and assign blame where there is enough to go around already—with every intention of either killing myself or disappearing forever or something, something, something, and who knows what that something was, well, I guess I thought it would somehow be okay if ended up alive if I could just have the right words at the end of the story.

 

But that’s bullshit. It was only me thinking that being a writer somehow had relevance in real-world application. That words somehow carried the same freight of meaning that my hateful and inexplicable actions did (and they were hateful, and they were inexplicable, both to myself and to Lin). My apologies about this were quite frankly unacceptable, and I was angry about their not being accepted even though I knew this was true. What solipsism! What stupidity about life! What a heartless act of psychological violence I’m guilty of by even assuming that an apology is worth anything at all!

 

Which brings me back to my friend, in a way. At first, I thought the idea of having a pitch black wedding cake and drinking a whole lot was somehow wrong, that it carried with it an unhealthy cynicism. I do not know the full story of why she is not getting married, but knowing what I know about how remarkably easy it is to annihilate a body without knowing why you did it or even that you’ve done it at all, now I am beginning to think it is right to celebrate. If she is sure that she’s made the right decision, then I will trust that she did, and I will eat that cake, and I will drink those drinks, and I will tell her that I’m proud of who she is. It’s the only thing I’ve left to do.

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(no subject) [Sep. 15th, 2009|12:08 am]

Hey everyone.  Allow me to drop the blog posture for a second and make an announcement: I will be going on a west coast book tour for Apathy and Paying Rent from Oct 13th to Oct 20th with the always fantastic Joey Comeau and the always terrifyingly blackout drunk Mike Lecky of Loose Teeth Press.  We'll be stopping in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco (where we will be attending the Alternative Press Expo, probably sitting with the Topatoco people), and Los Angeles.  We will read from our respective books and then we will hang out with you and have awkward conversations.  Tell everyone you know.


www.looseteeth.ca/seattle

www.looseteeth.ca/portland

www.looseteeth.ca/sanfrancisco

www.looseteeth.ca/losangeles


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What we are doing when we do the things we're doing [Sep. 8th, 2009|02:57 pm]
Hey there, Imaginary Audience.  It's been a few weeks, so I thought I'd say that I'm settled in Denton, I have made a bunch of suspiciously fantastic friends, and in many ways my life is the best it's ever been.

I don't have much else to say.  I go out with my friends and drink beers or listen to live music or both, we cook dinner for each other or I cook dinner for myself, I watch movies and read, I play guitar, I write.  On weekends, I open the blinds and watch league soccer at the park across from my apartment, a modern Latino spin on Norman Rockwell.  People sit in lawn chairs and yell encouragement, kids run from and towards each other in their way, sitcky-mouthed from snow-cones and screeching.  I own and use two typewriters.  I can't go to sleep without music or the tv on, but that will pass with time.  I fall in love with someone about twice a week, but I'm starting to think that's a common problem with writers, that they have a dangerous excess of love that they give away to near strangers or turn inward on thier private little worlds.  Anyway it feels good.

And that's it.  I'm sorry I don't have anything depressing or insightful to say.  I know that's why you came.  But then again, I'm not sorry.  I'm not sorry at all.
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You can chart it on a graph or you can sing it in a song [Aug. 18th, 2009|01:24 am]
I know I have been ignoring you, Imaginary Audience.  It is because I've kind of disappeared into fiction lately, writing vignettes for thingsthatcantbetakenback.blogspot.com (which by the way it would be a great favor to me if you would read that site and tell your friends about it) or working on my next novel or toying around with two graphic novel ideas, one about Emily Dickinson and the other about Walt Whitman.  If there's one thing I know how to do, it's write something for an audience that doesn't exist.

Anyway, it is high time for an update.  Tomorrow I move to Denton, TX to work on my PhD, and I go alone.  Those of you who just know me from here or from back when I did AHPT probably don't know that I'm getting divorced, but that's okay.  We're still friends in whatever way we've been friends.  Besides, I've always felt safer the less you really knew about me.  I could be a tightly controlled persona then instead of a messy person, a voice shouting into the wind, being heard or not, no matter.  The shouting was where it counted.

But I've figured something out that I wanted to say.  I used to think that life was a thousand thousand stories stacked unending, that you could pluck one out and say "here's the arc, here's the beginning and end, here's what I learned."  I think a lot of writers think this way, like because they build characters and stories that are finite so too is their personal narrative.  But that's bullshit.  You get one story that builds on itself, and the burdens in one chapter carry over into the next, and each individual moment is connected to the others in ways that are often frightening and beyond our control. 

Here, my urge is to say goodbye to my old life, which was a good life until it got bad because of my own depression and the mistakes I made in trying to ameliorate it.  I want to say I am starting anew.  Again, though, that's bullshit.  I carry all of this with me to Denton as surely as if it were in the U-Haul trailer.  As I get in my car and turn on the Mountain Goats "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton" and drive away from my parents' house, where I've been living since June, I have twenty-eight years of mistakes and pain and joy that I have to face down every day until I am dirt.  Sometimes I feel good about that, and sometimes I don't.  I think that's being alive.

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