Category Archives: parents
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Working in cafés can be wonderful. A clean, well-lighted place with good coffee and relative quiet can be inexpressibly fantastic. I’ve made the rent and written books in cafés. On the other hand, close proximity to others under the influence of caffeine can reveal a certain darkness in the human condition that would otherwise be difficult to notice.
People get bilious. A baby fires his diapers and the café hazmat expert springs into action. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Don’t worry,” says the teenager in the green apron. He’s down on his knees wiping up baby’s spillage with a rag. Mom takes a second before she moves. She says: “Yes. Well. I appreciate your help.” Mom’s friend—an almost identical copy, right down to the French twist and the yoga pants—crosses her arms and looks down at the boy. How do babies contain so much waste? Half of the café pretends it didn’t happen. The other half is smiling. Baby is so charming.
Mom and her friend finally decide to help. They sigh and wipe the drippings off the stroller, the floor. This is a normal thing in their world and mom executes her duties without getting a smudge on her yoga pants. From a certain point of view, this, I know, is admirable. But still, baby contains a gallon of fecal matter and mom contains a gallon of meaningless cooing. How does this happen to a person? These women are in their 30s. They seem oblivious to the fact that they have been speaking very loudly in close proximity to others about absolutely nothing for the last 45 minutes. Who raised them?
I am irritated, yes. I am a misanthrope, maybe. Timon of Yosemite. But I feel bad for the parents of the kid with the crew-cut who’s still down on his knees, apologizing for someone else’s shit. His choice, but still. My inner Nostradamus tells me that if he doesn’t quit this job soon, he’ll be doing that for the rest of his life.
Of course, I don’t have kids. It’s easy to pass judgment when you aren’t constrained to be a guardian of public health because baby has a bowel problem. But what about a pediatric gastroenterologist? I don’t know. Could an expert address this? Maybe mom already covered that angle; though, it seems to me baby would feel a lot better if he wasn’t bathed in his own waste. (Later, when mom goes out to a Lexus RX 350 with chunks of gold glued to the side, I will think this again in less charitable terms, wondering whether dad couldn’t take a day out to see about the health of his boy. But such are my prejudices. We should all foul our diapers and own Lexuses.)
I’m at the big table –the one for the losers who come to the café to work and read quietly. The era of socially egalitarian coffee shops ended with the rise of the Starbucks beast. There is definite class polarization here. Corporate culture and proletarian workforce self-segregate at the little tables by the windows; liberal democrats, professorial types, senior citizens, and other undesirables lurk at the long table in the back. In-between lingers the great murmuring maternity, the guardians of our future, a triple-parked fleet of strollers, an ocean of yoga pants, and the inevitable cloud of post-Yogalates hormonal dismay.
Being a mom is hard, yeah? My mom thought so and I’m sure I didn’t make it easy for her. She was a good mom—in my opinion, the best. And even though my parents stayed married (until my mom’s death from cancer in 2009, after which my father descended into a second perpetual adolescence), she was the one who took care of me on a daily basis. So maybe this is more of a personal moment for me than it seems on the surface.
Is it crazy to think parenting should be a group effort? Sorry guys, bringing home a paycheck doesn’t absolve you of having to mop up the Schmutzigkeit. We don’t want junior to have a lilliputian colostomy before he’s old enough to enjoy solid food. It makes me sad. It’s wrong. And I think just because you can reproduce and have money doesn’t mean you should.
Next to me, a 40-something guy with white shoulder-length hair sniffs and clears his throat. His long-sleeve is buttoned all the way to the top and he has a pair of square rimless glasses (spectacles?) at the end of his nose. He looks over at the baby in disgust and shifts his Kindle two inches away from that side of the room. That’s okay, I saw a different young mother do that with her baby when she looked over at our table. Germs. Competing bacteria. Everyone’s a vector. Everyone wants to eat your child and poo in your laptop case.
Why can’t we just get along? The answer is that we can—as long as everyone stays in the small box they were given at birth. Born in a box: live there, paint the walls all you want, inch a tiny mirror over the top edge to see what it’s like in the other boxes, sure. But try to climb out and everyone will destroy their diapers.
Said incontinent baby is now squealing in hideous misery while mom is sipping a latte and laughing with her friend. I really hope baby grows up to run with wild horses over the hills. You can always hope.
The kid in the apron has brought out a mop and bucket. Mom and friend ignore him.
“I’m sorry,” he says for the fiftieth time.
Yeah, me too.
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Welcome . . .
I write fiction and nonfiction for magazines, work as a freelance writer / editor / journalist, and teach composition and fiction writing.
This blog is mostly dedicated to travel essays, creative non-fiction, discussions about books, the MFA experience, publishing, and short stories I’ve already placed in magazines. But I might write anything.
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“I have no politics. I observe. I have no sides except the side of the human spirit, which after all does sound rather shallow, like a pitchman, but which means mostly my spirit, which means yours too, for if I am not truly alive, how can I see you?”
—Charles Bukowski, Notes of a Dirty Old Man
“The New York Times is Rotting at the Seams” – Splice Today – November 2019 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/the-new-york-times-is-rotting-at-the-seams)
“Trump Impeachment Syndrome and the Uses of Political Theater” – Splice Today – September 2019 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/trump-impeachment-syndrome-and-the-uses-of-political-theater)
“Jonathan Franzen Can’t Solve Climate Change for Anyone Who Matters” – Splice Today – September 2019 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/jonathan-franzen-can-t-solve-climate-change-for-anyone-who-matters)
“Jeffrey Epstein and the Usual Media Hate Porn” – Splice Today – August 2019 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/jeffrey-epstein-and-the-usual-media-hate-porn)
“Mob Justice for Jeffrey Epstein” – Splice Today – July 2019 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/mob-justice-for-jeffrey-epstein)
“Testify” – West Trade Review – Spring 2019 (http://www.westtradereview.com)
“Preponderance of the Small” – DecomP Magazine – July 2019 (http://www.decompmagazine.com/preponderanceofthesmall.htm)
“Letting Go of Game of Thrones” – Splice Today – June 2019 (https://www.splicetoday.com/writing/letting-go-of-game-of-thrones)
“William Barr and the Subversion of Justice” – Splice Today – April 2019 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/william-barr-and-the-subversion-of-justice)
“Into the Badlands Loses Its Way” – Splice Today – March 2019 (https://www.splicetoday.com/moving-pictures/into-the-badlands-loses-its-way)
“Trump is Interesting Again” – Splice Today – January 2019 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/trump-is-interesting-again)
“Outrage is Over” – Splice Today – December 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/outrage-is-over)
“Fulfillment” – Terror House Magazine – December 2018 (https://terrorhousemag.com/fulfillment/)
“Attacked on the Street” – Splice Today – August 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/writing/attacked-on-the-street)
“You Are Somewhere Else” – Visitant – July 2018 (https://visitantlit.com/)
“More Than Just a Familiar Formula” – Splice Today – February 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/moving-pictures/more-than-just-a-familiar-formula)
“STEM, Scientism, and the Decline of the Humanities” – Splice Today – February 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/on-campus/stem-scientism-and-the-decline-of-the-humanities)
“The NRA Isn’t the Problem” – Splice Today – February 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/the-nra-isn-t-the-problem)
“Altered Carbon’s Love Affair with Central Casting” – Splice Today – February 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/moving-pictures/altered-carbon-s-love-affair-with-central-casting)
“Cui Bono: the Latest Conspiracy Theory in the Ongoing Disintegration of the GOP” – Splice Today – January 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/cui-bono-the-latest-conspiracy-theory-in-the-ongoing-disintegration-of-the-gop)
Cruel Stars – Thrown Free Books 2017.
“You Can Do Magic, Honey” – Splice Today – December 2017 (https://www.splicetoday.com/moving-pictures/you-can-do-magic-honey)
“As the Leopard, So the Coliseum” – Splice Today – November 2017 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/as-the-leopard-so-the-coliseum)
“One of the functions of art is to give people the words to know their own experience. There are always areas of vast silence in any culture, and part of an artist’s job is to go into those areas and come back from the silence with something to say. It’s one reason why we read poetry, because poets can give us the words we need. When we read good poetry, we often say, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That’s how I feel.’” — Ursula K. Le Guin
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“If I were talking to a young writer, I would recommend the cultivation of extreme indifference to both praise and blame because praise will lead you to vanity, and blame will lead you to self-pity, and both are bad for writers.”
— John Berryman, The Art of Poetry No. 16, The Paris Review
“Truffaut died, and we all felt awful about it, and there were the appropriate eulogies, and his wonderful films live on. But it’s not much help to Truffaut. So you think to yourself, My work will live on. As I’ve said many times, rather than live on in the hearts and minds of my fellow man, I would rather live on in my apartment.” — Woody Allen
“I make the road. I draw the map. Nothing just happens to me…I’m the one happening.”
—Denis Johnson, Already Dead
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“At the age of 25 most people were finished. A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidate who reminded them most of themselves. I had no interests. I had no interest in anything. I had no idea how I was going to escape. At least the others had some taste for life. They seemed to understand something that I didn’t understand. Maybe I was lacking. It was possible. I often felt inferior. I just wanted to get away from them. But there was no place to go.” — Charles Bukowski
“You could lose it, your right big toe, leave it here, in this mud, your foot, your leg, and you wonder, how many pieces of yourself can you leave behind and still be called yourself?”
— Melanie Rae Thon, First, Body
“After you finish a book, you know, you’re dead. But no one knows you’re dead. All they see is the irresponsibility that comes in after the terrible responsibility of writing.” — Ernest Hemingway
“When one is too old for love, one finds great comfort in good dinners.” — Zora Neale Hurston