top of page

Extended family

Friday 9/4/20

I have family who goes to Cape Cod regularly. Like every weekend. They have places there. If I send a friendly note or text, and I say something like, "hey, I think you'd really like Buried on the Beaches, I know you dig the Cape a lot, want to check it out?" they'll ignore that. Each of them. Every time. How much ass do you have to suck to be that much of a flat out jerk? You go to this place. You sit on your ass at this place on beaches. You read whatever as you sit on your ass at this place. You know me. You've lived with my mom during a rough time in your life. Maybe you're my godparent. But you can't treat me with a shred of the lowest form of decency, and so much as reply? (Same as when I text a note wishing a Merry Christmas, or ask how the new apartment is working out, or how the start of the school year is going, etc.) Nah. That's great. You'd think the book was like the iron maiden, this torture device to bring pain and misery and suffering down upon your life. Like reading it is punishment. I'll outright ask what the deal is, what's with the ignoring thing, and that will also be ignored. Though one of these people offered me money a few months ago to write a school paper for them. Then I'll get a text.

I used to say I don't know how people live with themselves, but I think they never think about their conduct or how they treat others. And that's how they do it. But I don't think they do treat others this way. I'm not saying they're awesome and conscientious with everyone else, but I think I do get different treatment. (As someone told me yesterday, a huge problem is having standards of decency and conduct, and holding anyone accountable for anything at all, because people do not like standards or accountability. So they block out someone who is that way. I think I have these pretty low standards. I would never hold anyone to the standards I have for myself, be that as an artist or a person. And it's sad, making allowances like that, but honestly, how far does the sucking have to go? Do you have to have no standards of what is right or wrong at all? Is that a key to interaction now, to having people?) And that makes me feel awful about myself. It gets me so down on myself. Because I think, "What on earth is wrong with me?" And people also know what Cape Cod means to me, they know I wrote a book about it, they know my current situation, and not one of them has ever invited me. That's also super great. A couple of them live less than a mile away from me now. Right down the street where I cross the bridge to Charlestown on my runs. One of these people I ran into a few days before Thanksgiving last year. They knew I was going to be alone for the holiday. They were heading to their parents' for the day. Not even the invite. Just like, "See you, fuck off, enjoy your Thanksgiving alone, maybe write something I'd never read or acknowledge."

I'm reading this, and you know what I almost think? I start to think that someone else reading it would think, "Holy shit, this guy sucks, he must torture animals in front of these people and wank in front of children." And I don't. I'm actually just a really kind person. But it makes me doubt myself and gets me down on myself and makes me think maybe I am just horrible and I don't understand it or see it for some reason. I told someone yesterday that I've been thinking a lot about rape victims lately, and how they can often blame themselves, like what happened was their fault, and they try and figure out what they did wrong. Which you do more of if you're alone, and there's no positive reinforcement or input from someone else that it wasn't you, or just any positivity at all about who you are. I feel that way a lot.

I had asked my sister a question the other day. If I post something notable on Instragram--like the cover of a new book, or like when that short story came out in JazzTimes, the first fiction in their fifty-year history--I make a little caption under the photo--there isn't anyone outside of my mom, my sister, Wickett, a few others, who might hit that like button. Cousins and such? No. Never. But if I put a photo up of a drawing my four-year-old niece made, or a family picture like that Aquarium one, then they will. And the wives whose names I don't know who married cousins of mine. (And yes, I am supportive of whatever they have going on, which tends to be very simple and same-y.) I asked Kara why she thought this was. And she said that maybe it's because they think they'd have to say something about the book or the story or the arty thing? That doesn't make much sense. (And how hard is, "Cool!") They don't say anything about the Aquarium picture either, so it's not like this onus of needing to be clever or articulate. I said to her that if she self-published a book and put that cover up there, every last one of them would hit that like button, to which she agreed, concluding, "I don't know, but it sucks." Yes, it does.

I don't want to whine. I want to acknowledge. This is a record of my life, my observations and thoughts and feelings. One of these people referenced above did do some really big things for me a number of years ago, one pertaining to my career, the other when I was sick with pneumonia. So what happened I do not know. I was friendly, regularly checking in to see how they were doing, but for three years, they blew me off almost completely. Is that a mental health thing? I don't know. But it's a text. At some point, a text can be returned. Maybe you've spent your long weekend like the one upcoming luxuriating in Joyce's Ulysses while listening to Beethoven's string quartets and the albums of Coltrane's Prestige period away from screens and phones, to clear and cleanse the mind, heart, soul, and you emerge on a Tuesday. I'm kidding. I know no one does this. Their heads are buried in those phones. And they are responding plenty.

I know of people who do what I'll call kind of messy things. They'll throw up in someone's bathroom at a party, like in the sink. Or they'll hit on a guy's wife. Maybe make just this terribly off-color remark. And these people won't be cast out for it. Excuses will be made. Or the behavior simply tolerated, or forgotten about. When Manny Ramirez played for the Red Sox and did something awful--like shoving an elderly clubhouse attendant--people would say, "It's just Manny being Manny!" I don't do any of these things. I don't text someone's wife and ask her to "cum over." I don't fall about drunk in front of anyone's children. But I am clearly the pariah.

Some of these same people I had asked a few times, "hey, I have this blog, could use your support, it's pretty good, I think you'd like it, maybe sign up for the notifications when it runs?" And not one of them would. You might think it's awkward to ask why not, but enough time passed, enough stuff like this--the Thanksgiving kind of thing, for instance--added up, that I thought, well, it doesn't really matter at this point. These people suck, and it's not like this is a relationship of any kind, or any value, or any shred of returned respect.

It's sort of like with an editor who detests me. Does it really matter if I send another story? The hate is already there. At least if I send the story, I'm creating a kind of narrative, because later, when this turns, and that story is known by many people and loved, I can say--and it won't be a lie in the slightest--that it was offered to this particular person, as was this, as was this, so: You tell me how deep discrimination and bigotry went here? Go ask them why they never so much as wrote back, that person who initially recruited me to write for them. Let them explain their behavior. Love to hear how they try and justify it.

In this example, I have Bob Wilson of The American Scholar in mind, but it could be any of a number of others. Anyway, I'd send a friendly note--not a "hey, motherfucker, what is wrong with you, want to get cut, bitch?" note--saying, "hey, just wondering why you seem reluctant to sign up for the blog, I know you like to read you're into that kind of thing"--but this will also be ignored.

I guess it makes me pretty pathetic in a way to try, to not have summarily written off such people, but the truth is, I have no one, but even when you have no one, it still feels, I have learned, like you can become more alone. A paradox, that. But it's definitely true. And, of course, if anyone texts me anything, asks me anything, asks for an opinion, anything at all, I always reply. I'd feel like a dick and I'd feel guilty--and it would never enter my mind--to just ignore them. I don't have that in me, until and if we reach a point where an interaction with you impacts my ability to keep going right now. But that is literally a matter of life and death, because that's where I'm at.

bottom of page