Upcoming Events

In June, I'll be attending the 2016 Investigative Reporters & Editors Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I'll be improving my journalism skills.

In September, I'll be a resident at the Noepe Center Residency Program on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, where I'll be working on my novel.

Last year, I went to THREAD at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, and I was a resident at the Carey Institute Nonfiction Residency in Rensselaerville, New York. I highly recommend doing this story of thing. It's good to be a writer immersed in all things writing.

The Banana Derby

Not so long ago, I went to a fair because I wanted to see the banana derby. A banana derby is when monkeys riding dogs race around a track. I'd never seen a banana derby before. The monkeys and dogs appeared to be owned by a man and a wife who operated the banana derby out of an RV. There was also a little girl who I assumed was their daughter, and another woman who was maybe the wife's sister. It was like a traveling circus, but this circus only had monkeys and dogs. Eventually, the music started to play, and the man got on the mic. To much fanfare, the monkeys appeared and mounted their dog steeds. Then they were racing around the track. One of the monkeys gawked at us as he rode, making faces at the crowd that appeared to excite him. The other monkey acted like he just wanted to get the whole thing over with so he could get more bananas. I believe the monkey that made the faces was the winner. It was clear this race had been run before, many times, in all likelihood. It was a well choreographed routine. Afterwards, the crowd dispersed, and for not a large sum, you could have your photo taken with the monkey. I waffled, but eventually I went in the tent. The man told me to hand the money to the monkey, so I did. The monkey snatched the money, and then it stuck it in a box. The monkey came back with a picture of himself for me, but it was dropped during the hand off. Then the man told the monkey to sit on my lap for the photo. I thought maybe having a monkey sitting on your lap would be like having a cat sitting on your lap: warm, and alive, and comforting. Instead, the monkey was heavy, and tightly muscular, and reeked of urine that had maybe soaked the diaper that it was possibly wearing under its clothes. In the photo, we look happy: I'm smiling at the camera, and the monkey, who has his hand wrapped around the strap of my handbag, is staring at the camera. He has on a pink shirt like a clown would wear and bright blue pants. One of his feet is clutching at my hand. The leash trails off out of frame. In the background, there's a representation of a verdant jungle, the place where we aren't sitting.

Read This Book

"My father often said that if not for pornography, he'd have become a serial killer."

Chris Offutt's My Father, the Pornographer is such a strange book. It's beautifully written, and deeply strange, and involves watching someone rummage through a haunted house filled with things you've never seen. It's a memoir recounting the period in which Offutt went through his father's archives after his father died -- the difference is: his father was one of history's most famous and prolific producers of porn books. His father was a monster at home, and the narrative is consumed by Offutt's psychic wrestling with the still looming specter of his father. It's also about growing up in Kentucky and trying to understand things not meant to be understood.

All the Days

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Yesterday, I turned 48, which is as depressing as it is terrifying, which is also depressing and terrifying. How did I get to be this old? In two years, I will be 50. It simply doesn't seem possible. I think part of the reason this is the case is that I did not expect to live this long. There were too many things along the way: the cancer, the hurricane, the teenage ride in the drunk-driven car that nearly rammed headlong into the telephone pole, the long-ago first date with the drug dealer who ended up threatening me with one of the guns from the safe under his bed, the stupid choices, the intermittent drug use from my twenties, the time over a decade ago that I had a nervous breakdown and nearly killed myself.

To quote "Magnolia":

"This fucking life... oh, it's so fucking hard. So long. Life ain't short, it's long. It's long, goddamn it. Goddamn. What did I do? What did I do? What did I do? What did I do?"

In a way, this life feels like what Paul Auster called a "posthumous life."

Somehow, by luck or fate or something else altogether, I appear to have outlived myself.

The Terrible Time

At 34, Maureen, who had been divorced for one year as of tomorrow, sat in the car, eating a slice of carrot cake she had just bought at the Target Super Store. In the rear view mirror, she caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a barge sailing by in the parking lot. Something was written across the side of it, which Maureen tried to read backwards, which made her feel tired and soft. SNOITACAV, it read. Immediately, Maureen imagined the bus was a giant tin can filled with seniors returning from a bingo tourney in the east acreages, where it was mostly orange groves, tomato plantations, and workers from Mexico. This was a place so far south in Florida that it was almost exclusively old people. You could throw a rock and hit a Memory Care center without even trying. At first, Maureen had been unable to discern what the centers were. It was like a bank? For storing memories? Inside, the shelves would be lined with Mason jars containing the most precious memories of people most afraid of losing them. Through a process called transmigamorphization, the Memory Care Attendants would extract your best memories and then preserve them in the containers. That way, if you forgot them, you could come back and get them. Or, after you died, your relatives could come and spend, say, an hour with one of your memories, sort of like reliving your life, secondhand. But, of course, that wasn't the case. Instead, she'd learned, the places were filled with old people whose minds were rotting straight out of their ears, old folks in wheelchairs parked in front of windows overlooking parking lots at which they silently drooled. Maureen looked down at the slice of half-eaten cake sitting in the clam shell plastic container in her lap. She had stolen a fork from the deli section for eating in the car. She had known she wouldn't make it home. She had spent fifteen, maybe twenty minutes choosing it. There was a thick slab of white cake with white frosting and sprinkles, a thick slab of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles, a generous triangle of red velvet, and the terrible triangle of carrot cake. Something about the word carrot let her believe it was good for her to eat; like eating a vegetable. So she had snatched it off the shelf and paid for it at self-service checkout, so she wouldn't have to risk some pimple-faced, thin-facial-haired idiot querying her, "Cake for one?" Cake for one, indeed, she had decided, when she had opened the clam shell. It was her birthday. So she had allowed herself this one indulgence. In the car, she quietly sang "Happy Birthday" to herself. "Happy birthday to me," she warbled, low and pathetic. Since then, she had been shoveling large mouthfuls of it between her lips. That is, until the barge had pulled in and stopped behind her. In the mirror, she caught a glimpse of herself. There was a thick smear of butter and sugar frosting glommed onto her upper lip. An orange cake crumb was mashed between the gap of her two front teeth. Suddenly, there was an abrupt shrieking that she recognized: the door of the bus swinging open. The last time she had heard that noise, she had been at Jewish day camp, even though she wasn't Jewish, and it was the first overnight, and she had gotten so distraught, weeping and caterwauling and carrying on, after darkness had fallen, that her mother, who was angry, her mouth set in a thin battlefield line of clear hate, had come to get her. They had ridden home in silence. From somewhere back behind the bumper of her car, a din arose. Craning her head, Maureen watched as the group disembarked the bus. It was not, in fact, old people. It was Boy Scouts, it appeared. Older ones, it seemed. They were perhaps twelve- or thirteen-year-old boys. That age when they are all limbs and sullen faces. None of the boys noticed her in the car. Instead, a blonde boy who was so pale as to be albino lingered weirdly close to her car. He was wearing greenish brown shorts from which his hairy stick legs stuck and some sort of stupid red bandana around his neck. Without averting her eyes, Maureen ladled another heaping fork of cake into her mouth. "Happy birthday to me," she whispered absentmindedly. Ten feet away, the boy was pulling angrily at his rucksack. A part of her wanted to get out of the car, grab the fistful that remained of her cake, and shove it down his throat. Another part of her wanted to ask him what was wrong, maybe sit with him on the curb near which he was angrily stamping his foot, and share with him that she, too, knew what it was like to be gone from your family and wailing like a banshee despite the fact that no one could help you, not really, anyway. Maureen swallowed and wondered what would happen next. She wished that she could stay in this car forever, sticking wads of sugar butter into her mouth, singing softly to herself, the blue sky above her tiered with clouds as far as the eye could see.