How can I get away from all this when the tools keep pulling me back? My wife and my daughter got me an iPhone for my birthday. Do you know what that means?
Yes, I'm 38 today.
And thanks to all of you who commented and emailed. I should have been a bit more restrained. Some days I feel that quitting this blog would be the best thing as far as my time and energy goes. As soon as I think that, I start missing the outlet. I think sometimes I take what I do here too seriously, as if I'm somehow obligated to keep this going on a daily basis. I should just take things as they come, when they come, and how they come.
All that said, I'm going to use the terminology of a baseball injury report and say that I'm "day to day."
When you can't even make the cut on a shitty looking literary link aggregator, it's time to call it quits. At least, for now, the literary/book side of this blog is pretty much done. Hell, I can't even find five minutes to read anymore, so it's no wonder I haven't found the time to find something to write about for Syntax of Things.
It's been fun. Five years is a good run. Nearly a million in page views. Not bad. That's about 900,000 more than I ever expected.
Who knows, maybe I'll let the dust settle here for a little while; maybe I'll get the itch again and come back better than ever.
But for now, it's probably going to be silence, with the occasional birth/toddler announcement, and maybe a post or two about something that really pisses me off, like shitty looking literary link aggregators.
If you want to join the Fans of SoT mailing list, the email addie is somewhere on this page.
The latest offering from Dzanc Books is Kyle Minor's story collection In the Devil's Territory. Syntax of Things is proud to offer a brief essay by Kyle discussing the first story in his collection, "The San Diego Union Poinsettia Bowl Party":
In 2007, my wife and I took
a trip to the Ohio State University Medical Center to confirm the good
news we thought we already knew, which was that she was pregnant with
our second child. We watched him move around, fishlike, on the sonogram.
He had blue eyes, I was sure, and he was uber-intelligent, and girls
were going to like him. All these things were radically apparent, even
on the sketchy black and white computer screen. The nurse typed a message
from him to me – “Hi, Dad!” – and printed wallet-sized sonogram
images, which I promptly showed to my buddies, my colleagues, the woman
at the Tam Tam Chinese restaurant on High Street, the university library’s
rare books curator, the towel guy at the gym, the checkout guy at Blockbuster
Things were looking up. I was
almost done with graduate school, and my writing career was starting
to take off – major anthologies, emails from editors at major publishing
houses, a first-rate New York agent, whole nine. Ohio State was in the
national title hunt, in a year in which my wife and me had resolved
to watch football all day every Saturday, and every last bowl game of
an increasingly long bowl season. Our older son was learning to read,
and he was newly interested in the milelong walks that culminated in
half-hour buying binges at Half-Price Books on Lane Avenue, pizza at
the low-rent place across the street from the bookstore, and the long
trek home in the dark, him hanging onto my sore back, a plastic bag
full of books hanging from each hand.
Then one day my wife called
me into the bedroom and said, “Look at this.” The sheets were wet
and bloody. We called the ambulance. They rushed us to the emergency
room. The diagnosis was not good. Placenta previa, a bad case, they
said. Another hour and we would’ve lost the baby. The prescription
– mandatory, they said, and no fudging – was bed rest for the balance
of the pregnancy, which was months.
Now we had a problem. I was
teaching at three colleges, plus online courses for the Gotham Writers
Workshop, and I had a thesis to finish. Our son had preschool to attend,
and we wanted him to attend, because he was thriving there. And someone
had to take care of him while we were gone.
Into this breach, heroically,
stepped my parents, and all the more heroically since my mother was
still recovering from a major surgery. They cooked, cleaned, cared for
my wife, cared for my son, didn’t much complain. But, inevitably,
given the stress, there were tensions, and these tensions came to a
head on December 19th, a night when my fears that my wife
and baby wouldn’t make it, and my resentments, and my parents’ wearinesses,
and my wife’s desire that someone, someone, make her some ice
cream the way she liked it for once, with hot fudge on top and almonds
sprinkled just so, all converged with such force that I feared a psychological
My salvation was that December
19th was also the night of the San Diego County Credit Union
Poinsettia Bowl Party, the first bowl game of the year. Good Lord, was
it welcome, and we celebrated the best way we could, with steamed crab
legs and poinsettias purchased from the Giant Eagle grocery store across
the street, and for the first time in a long time, we all of us found
something to hope for.
The next day I spent a few
hours in the Caribou Coffee down the road and wrote the story pretty
much beat for beat the way it happened, and published it as an essay
in The Southern Review, and not long afterward, emails poured in from
all over the country. We’re worried about you and your family, they
said. How is your wife? How is the baby? Is everyone all right? I answered
everyone with the good news: The baby came early, but the baby is thriving,
he’s beautiful, he’s the strongest of us all.
Last month I received news
that the essay had been named to the 100 Distinguished Sports Stories
of 2008 list in the back of the Best American Sports Writing anthology.
By then, I had already turned it into a short story, making, I’ll
admit, minimum changes, and it is the leadoff story in my collection
In the Devil’s Territory, which releases this week from Dzanc Books.
I'm a white son of Selma, Alabama. Born less than five years after Bloody Sunday. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. I hoped it would become a remote possibility before I died. Now it's a reality. It will take a little while for this to sink in.
For my old good buddy Willie Flowers and one of the most influential people I ever met (and am sorry I've lost touch with) Allen Carlson, one of these tears is for you!
My dad can't watch an Alabama football game. He'll wash the car, cut the yard, trim the hedges, rewire the house. Anything but actually sit down and watch the game. Sure he keeps tabs on what's going on, making sure he knows the score at all times.
Well, the nut didn't fall far from the tree. I don't think I ever saw more than 1/3 of any of the Braves' playoff games. I'd do anything but sit there and wait for the next pitch. One playoff series, I think against the Cubs, I decided that sit-ups were a good idea.
Tonight, I cleaned the carpets in our house.
I've finished cleaning the carpets. This one is over. All but the LEFT coast.
One good thing about having a blog all these many years is that I can look back to what I was doing last time there was a presidential election. In 2004, I lived in a red county (San Diego) of the blue state of California. Looks like this year, I might live in a blue county (Wake) in a blue state, or if nothing else, a blue county in a barely red state. Anyway, here's what I posted on election day 04. Seeing old Hannah brought a tear to my eye.
After weeks of never hearing from the Obama GOTV people, we've been visited every day since Friday. Even in the miserable weather we're having today, a woman rang my doorbell just hours after I'd voted. I was hoping she was bringing me another cup of free coffee, but she just wanted to make sure that I voted. When I said yes, she knew it was one more in the Obama column (we have a bumper sticker).
By the way, I didn't have time to canvas this year, but I'm no stranger to canvassing. A few years out of college with few immediate job prospects, I spent a few months working for Citizen Action, a distant cousin of PIRG. That was during the 1996 presidential campaign. I had the honor of walking neighborhoods in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana and Cleveland, Ohio, the latter during one of the snowiest Novembers in Cleveland history. While we weren't officially campaining for candidates, we weren't discouraged from doing some GOTV. I usually did my part, except I skipped mentioning Clinton during a visit to one neighborhood plastered with David Duke signs, four years after Duke's previous run for elected office.
One benefit of working in Ohio was attending the acceptance speech of this guy. That was before anyone save Clevelanders knew him. I recall being blown away. And drunk.
All that just to say thanks to all of the canvassers, both those who walked the streets and those who burned the phonelines. It's hard work and hopefully in a few hours you'll see all of your labor pay dividends.
One explanation is increased traffic, but other factors might
contribute. A 4% increase in average speed, for example, could yield an
18% increase in deaths even with no increase in average travel
distance. Additional factors might include distraction (driver
inattention), rerouting (unfamiliar pathways) enforcement (decreased
police presence), and demographics (mobilizing unfit drivers).
Not even 8am here in North Carolina. It's raining today, not the symbolic blue skies I'd hoped for. M y wife and I went in two shifts to vote. Neither of us stood in line. In fact, my total time from leaving to returning to the house was a smidge over 15 minutes. Usually this would be a disappointment seeing as Obama's hopes in this state probably rely on high voter turnout, but I think he's locked in such a large number of early voters that today the rain may benefit him. Of course, it's still early and we don't live in a highly populated area of Raleigh, so take my polling observation for what it is.
Still, I'm optimistic. We'll know more in about 14 hours or so.
Sometimes I wonder what I would have been like if certain things hadn't happened in my life, if instead of where I'm at now (and where I've been) I would have remained in Alabama in the same small town in which my parents still live, if I'd chosen a path that most people I knew in high school chose. I wonder what tomorrow would be like for me, if I would have this same feeling I have now, this same hope of possibility, this same nervousness that we've come this far and we can't lose now. I wonder if I would have the same fear that my parents and many like them have, a fear that masks something else (he's Muslim, he's got a weird name, he's a socialist), and we all know what that something is.
I wonder if the Alabama me would wake up early in the morning and stand in line in the rain for godknowshowlong and for the first time in his life vote with absolute conviction and pride.
I wonder if I would have ever read Langston Hughes or be thinking of Langston and Ralph and James and Richard and Zora tonight.
I doubt it. But maybe...
I can't wait for tomorrow.
Daybreak in Alabama
by Langston Hughes
When I get to be a composer I'm gonna write me some music about Daybreak in Alabama And I'm gonna put the purtiest songs in it Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist And falling out of heaven like soft dew. I'm gonna put some tall tall trees in it And the scent of pine needles And the smell of red clay after rain And long red necks And poppy colored faces And big brown arms And the field daisy eyes Of black and white black white black people And I'm gonna put white hands And black hands and brown and yellow hands And red clay earth hands in it Touching everybody with kind fingers And touching each other natural as dew In that dawn of music when I Get to be a composer And write about daybreak In Alabama.