Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Besides the fact she was a superb listener and provided valuable and practical information, she herself has MS. While this latter part saddens me, of course, my interaction with her marks the first time I've worked with a clinician who also has a chronic, incurable illness and one that presents very similarly to mine, to boot.
As such, there was a shorthand to our nearly two hour conversation. She understood aspects that elude even my favorite doctors and massage therapists. (Side note: I've tried acupuncture and yoga, as well, and both increased the dizziness; in the former case, to near incapacitation.)
Her treatment is going quite well and her symptoms remain symptoms, obviously, and this sucks, but I'm glad for her advancement and grateful for her openness.
Life is different on this side of the membrane.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Have fun brushing the sand off your heads, dumbfucks.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
And what if you can almost never drink because of your health? Does this heighten or lessen the need?
Friday, December 25, 2009
On Thanksgiving, I felt flayed then bathed in acid. Yesterday was hard, obviously, but my oft-noted best family ever was delightful and a bit of joy seeped through the cracks and three of my exes, with whom I'm still very close friends, called or wrote to let me know they were thinking of me. My family and I made a large donation to a cause TJ believed in and he gave me decades of memories.
I'm figuring this out as I go, but I know, irrefutably, he would want me and all of his loved ones to revel in life's random pockets of happiness.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
And immeasurable good wishes to all my loved ones for their ceaseless kindness and humor. Though you haven't done it to be thanked, I will never be able to thank you enough. And while I know you know this, I love you more than I can express.
To crib the Mountain Goats lyric, "I am gonna make it through this year/ if it kills me."
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it and warm wishes to those don't.
Peace to all.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Trust me, just click:
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
...this year I wanted to circumvent the tinsel, ho-ho-ho-ing, etc.
However, I did purchase and display one ornament for Christmastime. (See above.) Even better? I was with out with my folks when I discovered said trinket and it was at Mom's urging I bought instead of contemplated it.
Monday, December 21, 2009
One of the photos TJ sent me from this past spring's trip to Italy, a frieze of bunnies eating grapes at an ancient Roman theatre museum in Verona. He said that above the rabbits were dolphins and that the accompanying placard detailed how Romans believed the latter represented the soul's trip to the sea. TJ said there was no description of what the bunnies symbolized and deduced, "...general coolness, I presume."
Sunday, December 20, 2009
My sleep has improved from where it was at, say, week #2, but at week #10 it's still nowhere near what it was when he was alive. And I'm prone to nightmares at the best of times.
Among the many characteristics we shared was circadian rhythm: both of us were night owls and shunned early morning unless we had to wrangle with it, i.e. when he'd rise before dawn to climb or ski or I'd do so when I hadn't finished a piece the night before and had to awake at 5:00 a.m. to polish it for an NYC-based publication that wanted it by noon EST. (If my health continues to improve and I take on deadlines at the rate at which I did during '04 to '07, then I imagine I'll find myself in the latter groove again. Which would, of course, thrill me.)
But nights, individually and collectively, were our thing. So that I now awake at 5:30 a.m., as I said, against my will, just feels fucked up and wrong. Also, if you have a chronic illness and a limited number of "good" hours in any given day, it's a little odd when you sometimes use them up by noon and find yourself nearly blacking out from exhaustion, napping, starting the second part of your day at 3:00 p.m. and often falling into fitful sleep by 7:30 p.m., awaking every few hours, then starting the whole thing all over again at 5:30 a.m.
On the flip side, and defying logic or scientific explanation, my remission is now in week #6. As I've explained a number of times throughout the years and as TJ was one of the few to truly understand, I am never asymptomatic. I always have what feels like a powerful flu and the other symptoms persist uninterrupted; it's a question of degree. But for the past six weeks, I've walked without cane or crutches for the first time since the four month remission ended in January. And, of course, I'm delighted.
Still wish he were here to walk with me, though.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
It launched a debate in response, with most participants writing as knowledgeable, fully-functioning adults. So kudos to all for that.
My response, below:
"Second what [redacted] wrote. Read the full piece in the Advocate. Obama supports the Domestic Partner's Benefit Act. Furthermore, 48% of those who voted for president in '08 didn't vote for him, and it's a fair assumption that out of those 48%, 90% hates him w/ the force of a meteor shower and the other 10% literally wants him dead. If Obama moves too far to the left too soon, the Democrats will, flat out, blow the mid-terms and we will saddle him w/ a Republican House and Senate. Thereby curtailing any chance of accomplishing *any* of our goals.
Re gay marriage, I've been volunteering time and money to the cause since 1994. The best hope for gay marriage on a nationwide level is for a test case to make its way before the U.S. Supreme Court, akin to Brown vs. Board of Education. And, as w/ Brown vs. Board of Education, a significant portion of the country won't be ready and will vociferously resist but each passing generation will eventually become acclimated and, eventually, wonder how the country could ever have lived otherwise.
Gay marriage, not just domestic partnership, will one day be the law of the land, but to underscore my point, I sincerely doubt it will be enacted through statewide referendums, DOJ administrative rulings, et al. Putting the rights of a minority group up to a vote or before a single administrative official is a wobbly strategy at best. And in order for there to sit a U.S. Supreme Court who will enact permanent, binding legislation guaranteeing that gays have 100% equality under federal law, there needs to be a president who will appoint such judges and a Congress who will confirm them.
I believe that president is Obama. I respect that many others here don't. But who, exactly, do you think can accomplish more of our goals in the next eight years? B/c I don't think it's Mike Huckabee or Tim Pawlenty or Bobby Jindal."
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
"Revoke Joe Lieberman's health insurance and gift it to someone not batshit" is the new group I've launched...
Because what are the holidays for if not for giving?
And everyone deserves health insurance. Except Joe Lieberman.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I've pasted my Facebook Hanukkah greeting below as it was met w/ great cheer from my Jewish friends:
"We used to call this 'the Jew Room'"--Tim Conway as aging TV star, Bucky Bright, referring to the writers' room in season #2 of "30 Rock". Hoping my treasured friends, colleagues, and neighbors are enjoying a festive, restorative and happy Hanukkah! Much love and many hugs, Litsa
Monday, December 14, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Please keep the climbers, living and dead; their loved ones; and the SAR crews in your thoughts, all:
Tragically, one was discovered dead last night and two remain missing.
As I said, please keep all involved in your thoughts.
The latest information:
[Postscript two hours later: air search will resume today, but due to avalanche warnings, ground search will not. Snowfall is expected to lighten tonight and temperatures are predicted to edge upwards a bit.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Because kneejerk thinking on the left is every bit as pernicious and irritating as it is on the right:
Should we have gone into Iraq? No. Would it be dangerously naive and naively dangerous to immediately pull out of Afghanistan? Even a cursory knowledge of history indicates, "Yes."
Regarding health care reform, will the final bill be perfect? No. Is it vastly superior to our current shameful system? Of course.
Again, as I've written of here and elsewhere: we elected a president, not Santa Claus. And I'm sorry if while we were all campaigning our asses off last year that you thought Barack Obama could slide down the chimney and make everything perfect. And within the first year. For fuck's sake, don't weaken our own side for the midterm elections and for the presidential race in 2012. Because I don't think you want to see what Mike Huckabee or someone like him will pull out of his ass when it comes to domestic and foreign policy and Supreme Court nominees.
Congratulations on your Nobel Peace Prize win and your meaningful, insightful acceptance speech today, Mr. President.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
[Above:] TJ w/ Jeff and Doug at their shared birthday Bifrost blowout at the Elysian, Dec 1, '08. (I didn't post this one last year as my BlackBerry takes crappy shots in dark bars, but it's hardly the point now.) A hilariously fun evening wherein Summer (Jeff's wife) made savory cupcakes topped w/ bacon and TJ, who suggested Summer fry the bacon at his place so as not to tip off Jeff (or was it so Jeff and Summer's place wouldn't reek of bacon? I can't recall) had vast quantities of foil-wrapped bacon leftover in his pack. Some of which ended up pleasing Doug and Anne's dog (waiting patiently outside) thoroughly. Also, as I teased TJ the next day, for being a highly intelligent group of individuals, it was sort of great that roughly a third of the evening's conversation revolved around the Elysian's seasonal-only Bifrost beer.
[Above, previous two photos:] TJ and I on his birthday last year at Top Pot. I was in a remissive phase then, so we met at my place, I gave him his smaller-sized gifts that would fit in his pack for our walk downtown, where, as the birthday boy, he insisted we see Disney's 3-D animated, Bolt. (I whispered to him midway, "Gee, do you think the dog and the girl get reunited?" and he teased me I was ruining the suspense.) We acted like total dorks and kept our 3-D glasses on after the film ended and, of course, realized that w/ my balance problems and his lack of peripheral vision in one eye, this was not really a plan.
Present-laden and Disney-fied, we walked back up to Top Pot for mochas and donuts. (I gave him his larger-sized gifts at our annual Christmas gift exchange, where, as previously noted he gave me the same gift the second year running: a trip to Manhattan to meet w/ one of the two agents interested in my novel. I.e. the most thoughtful and generous gift ever.)
These two pics were shot near the end of our day. He had to attend a meeting for work, then some friends were meeting him at Smith. I was supposed to rest then rendezvous w/ everyone. By that time, I was too sick and had to pass, but he emailed me when he got home and thanked me for a perfect day and said how much it meant to him that so many of his friends arrived at Smith and how lucky he felt in general. And I know he realized that we felt lucky, too.
Monday, December 07, 2009
His birthday is tomorrow and I spent most of last night poring over 20+ years of photos, et al. Have concluded I am neither a fan of mortality nor...
...some of my early '90s eyeliner choices.
At the reception for Christy and Mike's wedding, August 1993. Copious hair and piercings for each of us. (I'd taken out my additional earrings as I was maid of honor.)
At 26, this is what TJ wore to a betrothal wherein his date (we were both seeing each other among others at this point; you need a schematic to chart our history over the two plus decades) was in the wedding party. He'd donned a more formal ensemble for the ceremony, then jetted to his apartment to change for the reception. Three years ago at Uptown Espresso, he teasingly apologized to Christy for this consummate young dude maneuver and she found both the memory and the contrition funny. Then he confessed to her that a large swath of the revelers (myself included) had filled his pack w/ the remaining beers before heading to the Camlin Hotel's Cloud Room to get properly smashed. She'd long ago seen photos of the latter and laughed at acknowledgment of the former, which she'd already figured out.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
That said, you know how there is National Coming Out Day? What if we enacted a Show of Hands Everyone Who is Fucking Someone They are not Supposed to be Fucking Day and got all this over with in one fell swoop?
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Towel off and mull it over.
Everyone with Functioning Cognitive Skills
[And, yes, he is a Democrat. Lest anyone think I don't play fair around these parts.]
Friday, December 04, 2009
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Here New York State Senator, Diane Savino, systematically dismantles the arguments against gay marriage and she makes me even prouder to be an American:
If you'd like to thank Senator Savino for her conviction, you can do so here:
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
But I just received a Washington Post "Breaking News Alert" stating, "Tiger Woods says he regrets transgressions" and like all sentient creatures, I can't help but think, Aren't we on the brink of enacting health care reform? And fighting two wars? And is our Bush-inherited economy still as reliable as a meth-head with a key to your house or did I miss a meeting?
Again, I know I'm not alone on this: I don't read the Washington Post or the New York Times, both of which I check several times a day, for gossip. Archaeologists typically consider division of labor as the launching point for human civilization: news organizations of all mediums, leave who's-fucking-who to the print and online tabs and, please, for the love of our current civilization, stick to your purpose and cover actual goddamned news.
[Postscript two hours later: WaPo just sent out another "Breaking News Alert" stating, "NIH authorizes use of first human embryonic stem cells under new policy." Which is substantive, actual news. Hooray! Also: maybe we control the world with our minds now.]
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Everyone, including my shrink, tells me I'm holding up wonderfully under the circumstances. (I hadn't been in therapy for a year but made an appointment after he was confirmed dead and I resumed shortly after the "memorial".) As noted, I'm tenacious by nature, but an indescribably huge portion of the credit goes to my family and friends, particularly my mom, whose love and insight have been sheltering and spot-on.
We've just completed the first month, November, in which he was alive for no part and I now believe the ancient Greeks were wrong: the world is, indeed, quite flat.
Monday, November 30, 2009
This morning as I was reading the front page New York Times story on the horrific execution of the four police officers outside of Tacoma, I received a text from my dear friend, Maria, saying she wasn't sure if I was awake yet but wanted to let me know she'd left a surprise for me downstairs by my building's front door and for me to retrieve it before it was absconded. I was already half-dressed (clad in shirt and bra but still in my pajama bottoms), so I threw on some jeans and headed for the elevator. And there by the main entrance was an enchanting bouquet of a type of lily, I believe (I'm not the world's most adept horticulturist), a Godiva chocolate bar, and heartfelt and witty card.
I realize I'm not as funny when I chronicle how grateful I am, but the fact remains I am grateful to so many for so much. As I wrote the other day, there will come a time I return to penis jokes and such. (Today's Facebook post: "Like Thomas Edison and his light bulb, whomever develops a sensor that detects free-floating particles of douchebaggery will steer human history permanently for the good.") And I can feel myself inching that way: humor gets you through this nearly as much as anything. In the meantime, though, I'd fail as a writer and as a person if I ignored the incredible kindness surrounding me through one of the two worst years of my life.
So how 'bout if I split the difference and write how fucking grateful I am? While I mostly still feel like I'm stumbling blindly about, hour by hour I'm figuring this out. (And look! I just inadvertently wrote a Sheryl Crow lyric.)
Sunday, November 29, 2009
"Take comfort in your friends"--Michael Stipe, R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" (and, well, just common sense):
Not bad under the circumstances.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
S has lived in Los Angeles for years and, as such, he couldn't make it to TJ's memorial. P attended the vigil, but was in Paris for his awesome wife's 40th birthday when the memorial came. (I consider her a dear friend, too, and was all in favor of them adhering to their long-planned jaunt. As I relayed, TJ would have been the last person to want to fuck up anyone's travel plans.) S and P loved TJ and vice versa and S, with his usual insight, suggested that when he came to town for Thanksgiving this year, we gather again and raise our mochas to TJ.
We did and told stories of his life and caught up on our own and the whole thing felt right and good.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
"Hey, dudes! I'm not sure everyone knows this, but I have been cane-free for three weeks now, the first time I've walked without cane or crutches since the four month remission that ended in January. So, high fives and cheek kisses all around! Carrying things in two hands! Yippee!"
So far, I've received 33 "likes" and 14 comments and the whole thing is dipped in a big bowl of awesome sauce and rolled in honey bunches of greatness. I'm more touched than Pamela Anderson in her honeymoon video. But, you know, nicer.
After 18 years, I know the cage door stays open as long as it stays open, seemingly independent of how healthily I eat (which is almost all the time) or how routinely I stretch and go for a walk (ibid). So, I'm sanguine but thrilled.
You take your good news where you can get it.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
As everyone familiar with grief knows, it is a two-steps-forward-one-step-back process. I can feel myself inching in the right direction and some days I can discuss and write about him and how I am doing quite fluidly, surprising even myself. Others, like yesterday when I was downtown getting a jump on my holiday shopping because I am not quite fa-la-la-la-la this year and would prefer to sidestep the onslaught of wreaths, lights, Santas, et al, things leap out unexpectedly and I find myself nearly crying in the middle of Williams and Sonoma because I inadvertently stumbled upon their Popcorn Lover's Kit I gave him as part of his birthday gift last year. And again, this is obviously not specific to me. It seems ingrained in the process of learning to live one's life, in many ways, from scratch.
So, if you haven't heard from me a few days after your kind, thoughtful, and in some cases, hilarious-in-a-way-he-would-have-appreciated-most-of-all phone call or email, please know how much you mean to me and how much I value your reaching out. Most days, I return at least a few and I consider them a true gift and not a chore, but other days, the simplest tasks seem to require Herculean effort. But I will get back to you soon. Not because I have to, but because I love or value you deeply.
I am tenacious by nature, but all of you are helping to sustain me in ways that if I enumerated would fill every book in each library across the globe.
In the midst of the worst year I've encountered, I am still profoundly grateful and fully aware that out of the nearly seven billion fellow humans currently sharing the planet, I was graced with one of the very best lives.
And yes, one day I will again make penis jokes and such. For my own sanity, mostly, and because he'd want me to continue moving to a lighter place and reclaim my title as "Miss Potty Mouth", one of his many nicknames for me.
Still and always,
Monday, November 23, 2009
Having said that, I, of course, have no control over any of it. Which is where the whole "letting go" thing comes in. And circling back to an earlier point, yes, I do believe TJ hears his loved ones, not because he was messianic or something but because that is what I believe. And clearly, others believe it, too, or they wouldn't keep writing to him on his Facebook page. But this is among the things that bemuse me: if you believe he can hear you, certainly Facebook is not the conduit, is it? As I've written of here and elsewhere, during different points of my life, I've been a believer, an agnostic, and an atheist. I respect anyone who arrives at his or her conclusion after vast periods of reflection and not based merely on the geographic locale into which he or she was born.
For the past few years, I have again believed in an omniscient deity, fully stipulating, as I have with each of my prior beliefs, that I might be wrong. Ultimately, I believe we leave this life not knowing certain things and the best we can deduce is, at its core, an educated guess. I have family and friends of all philosophical and theological stripes: the thing that unites them is that each has an active mind and a kind heart. And I believe these are the most important traits of all.
With all this in mind and prompted by my friend Eric's recent and brilliant interview w/ John Cleese, I opted to view Monty Python's Life of Brian, The Meaning of Life, and Search for the Holy Grail back-to-back yesterday, each for roughly the millionth time. And, of course, while I understand the underlying and collected meaning of them is essentially agnostic, the god I believe in would be the first to find these films masterworks and utterly fucking hilarious. I will not believe in a god who does not believe in Python.
So here are the lyrics to my favorite Python song, that obviously, closes The Life of Brian, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life":
"Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble; give a whistle
This will help things turn out for the best
Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the light side of life
If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly, chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle
That's the thing
Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the bright side of life
For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word
You must always face the curtain
With a bow
Forget about your sin
Give the audience a grin
It's your last your last chance, anyhow.
So, always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath
Life's a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's a joke
You'll see it's all a show
Keep 'em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you
And, always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the right side of life
(C'mon, Brian! Cheer up!)
Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the bright side of life
(What are you gonna do?
You come from nothing--you're going back to nothing
What do you lose?
Always look on the right side of life
(Nothing will come from nothing!
Cheer up, you ol' bugger!)
Always look on the bright side of life
Saturday, November 21, 2009
- Christy, for graciously allowing her birthday dinner to be postponed twice, (once when TJ went missing and then again when he was confirmed dead) and while it wasn't the locus of what should have been and was an evening to honor her, she kindly didn't ask or expect me to pretend what is going on is not going on. And we should note she was his friend, too.
- Hilary, for a deeply meaningful and darkly hilarious dinner at Quinn's after which I got the closest thing I've managed to a full night's sleep in six and a half weeks.
- My cousin, George (yeah, I know, same name as my brother, but they're named after different grandfathers), for volunteering to purchase and install a router so that I might have wi-fi. (And as such, I'm writing this from my living room now. Hooray!)
- My parents, for a fun-under-the-circumstances lunch before they dropped me off at grief counseling.
- Eric, for his outstanding-per-usual interview with John Cleese (http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2009/11/qa-john-cleese-plans-on-living-forever-or-at-least-long-enough-to-pay-off-his-alimony.html) that prompted me tonight to rent Life of Brian, Meaning of Life, and Search for the Holy Grail, all of which I intend to watch for the millionth time tomorrow and should have thought to have rented weeks ago.
- My new friend, Gary, for being a spectacular listener and for reaching out to an acquaintance when many would have looked the other way. Also, he is a gifted thinker, conversationalist, and artist who helped today pass in a vastly superior manner to yesterday, which was hellish.
- Kate, for sending me one of the most insightful and understanding letters I've received since this began and whose awesomeness continues unabated.
- Jade, Yahoo!'s overnight editor, for her otherworldly level of insight and who chose one of their photo highlights for me: http://tinyurl.com/yjrnprz
- My cousin, Mary, for her unfailing compassion and ability to make sense in the face of cacophony.
- My brother, George, for continuing to prompt me to laugh when it's seemingly impossible.
Friday, November 20, 2009
The irrefutable facts remain, though: Tuesday night made six weeks since he was due at my place; Wednesday six weeks since he was "officially" late by the time frame he gave me; tomorrow will make six weeks since he was confirmed dead and seven weeks since we spoke on the phone; Sunday eight weeks since we saw each other in person for the final time, in my living room, going over instructions for bunny duty (he was taking care of Xander while I headed to Portland for three days).
Of course, those numbers will move in only one direction, growing larger with each passing second and with no plateau or respite.
As Elliott Smith once sang, "Oh, well. Okay."
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Which means one of two things: he has either deduced that his batshit presidential run ("I'll sit out lots of primaries then I'll disavow gays even though a bunch of them were my friends when I was mayor!") has permanently soured him with voters or he's about to announce wife #4 and this one is his sister.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
1) Because I've had CFIDS for 18 years, I'm usually in pain most days and I have a high tolerance for it. (I had a high tolerance for pain before I became ill, for that matter: when your dad has Nazi shrapnel embedded in his leg and his skull bears a dent from the same's rifle butt and your mom survived a horrific car accident as a child but spent a good deal of her childhood taking care of her injured mom, you and your brother realize pretty young that, in the scheme of things, a garden variety cold or flu or even broken bone is not a huge fucking deal.) As I've written about, due to my compromised immune system, I still had a fever a year and a half after the pneumonia from January 2008 when the shingles hit Memorial Day Weekend 2009.
As any physician, massage therapist, or person who has had shingles will relay, it is one of the most excruciating forms of pain the human body can experience. As I was not in optimum condition when mine hit, it was exceptionally pernicious and drawn-out. However, and I sound facetious but I'm not, this occurred to me two weeks ago: thank god I didn't get shingles slightly later in the year or the worst physical pain of my life would have coincided with by far the worst emotional pain that's found me. Since TJ died, no matter what, I've forced myself to write and go for a walk each day (frequently sobbing through both, but I do it) and while everyone in my sphere and many in his have graciously and sincerely offered their help, I insist on doing my own grocery shopping, cooking, errands, et al because if I don't, I'm flat out going to go crazy. And, as I've written of repeatedly here and elsewhere, I've been deeply touched by my family and friends, who have unfailingly taken me to lunch or dinner or coffee and listened and prompted me to laugh to the degree I'm able and, in some cases, held me while I cried.
But if the shingles had descended even a hair later than it did, none of the above would be possible because I would still be a de facto invalid and I'm certain I would be rendered insane. I'd have shingles each day the rest of my life if it would somehow resucitate his.
2) Because I had shingles throughout the summer and because TJ was (using the past tense still seems wrong) so incredibly caring, we saw each other nearly everyday during what turned out to be his last days. We usually saw each other a few times a week anyway, but while I was flattened, he, of his own volition, made me homemade spaghetti sauce and burritos and chicken noodle soup and stir-fry and frequently did my grocery shopping, picked up my prescriptions, and as I improved, drove me on short jaunts so I could actually leave our neighborhood. During the worst of the pain, he decreed we would have Goofy TV and Junk Food Night and we viewed CBS' Monday night line-up and scarfed his signature popcorn (made with olive oil and parmesan cheese, which sounds gross but he made deliciously), pepperoni pizza, nearly a pint each of Haagen-Dazs, and, somewhat as a joke at that point, several organic mangos and glasses of water. (Obviously, both of us ate healthily as a rule, hence the fun of splurging.) Despite the left part of my skull, neck, and torso were on fire, he made me laugh the whole goddamned night. And, of course, there was the delightful surprise party he threw for me in August. (I count it among my favorite days and, if you're curious, you can read about it here: http://theslipperyfish.blogspot.com/2009/08/best-anniversary-ever-as-such.html)
TJ and I first met in a Creative Writing class spring quarter of our junior year at the University of Washington 1988. He told me he liked my short story; I told him he had a great name for a mystery writer. He asked me out, but I had a boyfriend then. We stayed friends and later dated on and off from 1991 to 1994, again in 2000, throughout 2007 and on and off until he died. (I wouldn't usually divulge private details publicly, but I've been asked this question about a thousand times in the past six weeks and I'm confident he would be fine with my answering it definitively.) When we weren't dating, we remained close friends and everyone still saw us together. Hence, the confusion. And while this seems self-evident, no, of course we did not date each other while we were seeing other people or while he was briefly married. Also, and he'd be amused that I'm writing this but here goes: both of us broke up with each other more than once. I.e. it was a level playing field, as it were, which is part of what allowed us to remain close and grow to be best friends.
And that's just it: regardless of our "status" at any given moment, we were best friends and told each other so all the time. Nothing went unspoken: we frequently told each other how much we loved one another. There's not a room in my home he didn't paint or in which he didn't hang the pictures, move the furniture, install the light bulbs, make repairs, or, well, you can take it from there. And while his family, to whom I deferred on all matters while he went missing and who insisted I was the only one of his friends allowed to have contact with them during those four days and who asked me to hold the vigil the night we learned he was dead and to make dozens of phone calls on their behalf and asked me to help coordinate his Seattle memorial along with his cousin, and then, without a word of explanation, allowed me to read online later that same day the details had been set despite the fact I made it repeatedly and abundantly clear I would continue to defer to each of their wishes re the memorial (and I have the emails that bear this out), well, I know their agony is immeasurable and I wish them peace. And if they're comfortable having buried their son without including the person with whom he was closest throughout his most of his adult life, so be it.
I'm going for a walk now. Despite all odds, I've been cane-free for the past two weeks for the first time since January. And I suspect a certain climber of prodigious intellectual and creative gifts and a massive, ceaselessly kind heart has a bit of something to do with it.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Still, I wish there were a different classification for Carrie Prejean, Sarah Palin (who the fuck winks during a debate?), Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, the "Real Housewives" of any city, Octomom, Kate Gosselin, et al because they advance solely on their stupidity.
They are, essentially, minstrels and I loathe them.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
The esteemed and hilarious online literary magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, has launched version 3.0 and...
Congratulations, treasured colleagues, particularly our fearless editor-in-chief, Brad Listi, and non-fiction editor, the oft-noted Mr. Spitznagel. I have written for TNB intermittently (i.e. health permitting) for the past two and a half years and will resume my new position as one of the associate non-fiction editors after the holidays, by which point, hopefully, a bit of the grief will have subsided.
In the meantime, cheek kisses, all, on a job supremely well done:
While I didn't scroll through her posts, I wouldn't be surprised to discover she also enjoys kelp, whatever "cleanse" diet is currently making the rounds among starlets and the emotionally infirm, and persistently discussing the auras of those in her sphere.
No regrets here.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Once again I decree: best family, friends, and colleagues in the heliosphere. And this has all the makings of a great documentary: The Finest of Human Behavior and Meals.
Friday, November 13, 2009
2) The renowned exhibit, Bodies, has rolled through Seattle again and its poster is seemingly everywhere, particularly on the side of each Metro bus that careens down my street. Really, dudes: not now.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
...the intersection of all of the above, read this and feel better about the world:
And while three of my closest friends are of German descent and each is hilarious, this piece on "30 Rock" bombing in Germany (we should note Fey herself is half-German and half-Greek) seems to bear out Elvis Costello's line in "Man Out of Time" about a "German sense of humor":
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
However, to those who barely knew him and who don't know me at all, and yet, after five weeks, continue to contact me and make it all about yourselves and not about him, I'm through responding graciously.
You will be deleted.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Because it remains one of the funniest nights in our nation's history and, like pancakes or pizza, one can never have too much Wanda Sykes:
One of the axiomatic things about grief is that it completely fucks up your sleep. So, hypothetically, if your best friend and on-again/off-again boyfriend of the past 21 years goes missing in the North Cascades and is found dead five days later after a 1000 foot fall, you will find yourself, five weeks later, still unable to sleep the entire night through. You might be reading, writing, sobbing, watching a DVD, or staring out the window at 3:30 a.m., but you'll frequently conk out at 9:30 p.m. the following evening, despite the fact you've been a night owl since you were a little kid, because your body finally caves and rests, but then you wake up again four hours later.
To the degree I'm able to look forward to anything now, I was looking forward to the debut last Friday night of Wanda Sykes' new talk show. But, for the above reasons, I slept through it. (For that matter, I've also slept through two episodes of the current season of 30 Rock, which, if you know me, you know I don't miss 30 Rock for anything because it is the Beatles of comedy and the world is a richer place for it. Thank you, Hulu.com, for allowing me to catch up the next morning.) Anyway, Wanda Sykes, along with Tina Fey (and my friend, Eric, and my brother, George) are among a tiny handful of individuals who can make me laugh currently and I might have someone call this coming Friday to make sure I'm awake to catch Ms. Sykes' second installment. (Please, no one actually do this unless I ask you. That's another axiomatic thing about grief: well-meaning phone calls from all over the world, for which you're incredibly, profoundly grateful, but with a few notable exceptions.)
In the meantime, I've derived great joy from re-watching Wanda Sykes host the 2009 White House Correspondents' Dinner. And while you might have viewed it after the event took place, you'll be pleased to discover each second is every bit as hilarious now:
I was fortunate enough to interview her for The Believer in 2006 and if you missed it the first time 'round, you can read an excerpt here:
I cannot fathom the magnitude of grief he and his family are experiencing.
A fund has been set up to defray medical costs and the remainder will go to charities. The family is in the process of narrowing it to three and thus far are leaning toward those that fund research and treatment of pediatric meningitis, H1N1, and Kawasaki Syndrome, which one of their other children had earlier this year.
I'll have further details tomorrow. If you would like to contribute, please email me at ldremousis at yahoo dot com.
And please keep the family in your prayers or good wishes of whatever stripe.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Two months ago, Brad Listi, our fearless editor-in-chief (and author of the bestselling novel, Attention. Deficit. Disorder.) asked me to call him. The new non-fiction editor, my oft-noted, brilliant, hilarious, and cherished friend, Eric Spitznagel (whose weekly online Vanity Fair column you should gulp down like M & Ms and can be found here: http://www.vanityfair.com/
Shortly thereafter, TJ died. Last week, I asked the non-fiction team and Brad if I could step aside until after the holidays, given the circumstances and that I'm in no frame of mind to properly edit anyone. And the depth of kindness from all four of them was incredibly moving. Each advised me to take the time I need and maintained the position is mine when I'm ready to return. I really can't convey how appreciative I am of their understanding as people and friends and colleagues. I am astoundingly fortunate in this regard.
Here is the most recent piece I wrote for TNB, on October 5th. TJ had already left for the North Cascades and, of course, died the next day, but as I've written of a number of times, the official "worry" time he gave me for this trip was late afternoon October 7th. So when you see me responding to comments on the 5th and 6th and morning of the 7th, it is because, obviously, I didn't yet know things were awful and awry.
I realize most individuals read my work, in part, because they (flatteringly) find it funny. And I know I haven't been particularly funny lately, nor has anyone expected it of me. Still, here, in a roundabout way, is a return to form. And, of course, the "best friend" mentioned in the piece is TJ. One of his many nicknames for me was "Jack" and for himself was "Neal". As he often said, "I'm like Neal Cassady and I run around and do things and then you write about them and immortalize me, like Jack Kerouac." (I'd already interviewed TJ for one of my Esquire features, published an essay about him twice that was later included in a well-received Seal Press anthology, and had a short story about him included in the now-defunct literary journal, Rivet.) He quite enjoyed when I wrote about him and while all artists, essentially, have to "take" permission as ethically as possible, TJ gave me his explicitly and repeatedly over the years. As he said, warts and all, his life and the intersection of ours was mine to write about anyway I chose.
Which is just one of the many gifts with which he left me.
This one's for you, Neal:
And to the 39 Democrats who voted against it: you cocksucking assholes. If the 2008 election proved anything it's that those of us who are the most informed and politically astute and who donate and raise the most money very much support President Obama and his goals. Come re-election time, you are fucked. (Side note: mad props to the one Republican who voted for it.)
Friday, November 06, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
I was right on both counts. We continued to correspond and today I'm very good friends with Chris and his equally talented and kind wife, Heidi. (Track down her paintings; they're extraordinary.)
Chris, who writes for The Stranger and KEXP.org and scads of other venues, has an excerpt from his 'zine, Get Well, in Outsider Writers today. It's aching and lovely and I'd find it beautifully crafted no matter what, but when you read it, you'll see why it resonates even more so for me right now:
Much love to you and to Heidi, mon frere.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
To quote Cole Porter, "You're the top/ you're a dance in Bali/ You're the top/ you're a hot tamale."
Much, much love, all.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Now I've just discovered Bailey Boy Books, one of my very favorite places in the city and a mere few blocks from my home in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood and somewhere TJ and I went many times over the past two decades, is closing after 26 years at the end of this month. And, as we all know by now, Elliott Bay Book Company is moving to Capitol Hill and that might turn out to be a great and good thing, but it leaves Pioneer Square (Elliott Bay's current locale) completely untethered and surrennders it mostly to cheesy sports bars and those who consider crack a food group.
So I think I might just spend my remaining days in a dark, still room, quietly contemplating bunnies and Pomeranians. See you all on the other side.
More on Bailey Coy's closing:
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Would still sever any limb to have him alive and here again.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I remain forever in awe that my father's humanity and intellect and wit have persisted intact.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Most days, I return several emails and phone calls. Some days, however, I cannot. The grief is staggering and there are times the healthiest thing to do is to go for a walk or read quietly. If you have not heard from me, you will. I just don't want anyone to think I've overlooked their words of love because I have not. They are very much helping to sustain me.
And on a darkly humorous note that TJ would be the first one to find funny: as oft-noted, I live in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood (as did TJ), in which a delightful (and occasionally batshit) mix of artists and gays reside. Halloween here is a national fucking holiday and while I usually enjoy the unfettered theatricality, this year, I could do without each window of every storefront and home being festooned with all manner of skeletons and ghosts. Really, not in the least bit helpful.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Paul Haggis, the Oscar-winning director and renowned screenwriter, states in great detail why he has left the "Church" of Scientology after 35...
Excerpt of Haggis' public disavowal:
"I joined the Church of Scientology thirty-five years ago. During my twenties and early thirties I studied and received a great deal of counseling. While I have not been an active member for many years, I found much of what I learned to be very helpful, and I still apply it in my daily life. I have never pretended to be the best Scientologist, but I openly and vigorously defended the church whenever it was criticized, as I railed against the kind of intolerance that I believed was directed against it. I had my disagreements, but I dealt with them internally. I saw the organization - with all its warts, growing pains and problems - as an underdog. And I have always had a thing for underdogs.
But I reached a point several weeks ago where I no longer knew what to think. You had allowed our name to be allied with the worst elements of the Christian Right. In order to contain a potential "PR flap" you allowed our sponsorship of Proposition 8 to stand. Despite all the church's words about promoting freedom and human rights, its name is now in the public record alongside those who promote bigotry and intolerance, homophobia and fear.
The fact that the Mormon Church drew all the fire, that no one noticed, doesn't matter. I noticed. And I felt sick. I wondered how the church could, in good conscience, through the action of a few and then the inaction of its leadership, support a bill that strips a group of its civil rights.
This was my state of mind when I was online doing research and chanced upon an interview clip with you on CNN. The interview lasted maybe ten minutes - it was just you and the newscaster. And in it I saw you deny the church's policy of disconnection. You said straight-out there was no such policy, that it did not exist.
I was shocked. We all know this policy exists. I didn't have to search for verification - I didn't have to look any further than my own home.
You might recall that my wife was ordered to disconnect from her parents because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did twenty-five years ago when they resigned from the church. This is a lovely retired couple, never said a negative word about Scientology to me or anyone else I know - hardly raving maniacs or enemies of the church. In fact it was they who introduced my wife to Scientology.
Although it caused her terrible personal pain, my wife broke off all contact with them. I refused to do so. I've never been good at following orders, especially when I find them morally reprehensible.
For a year and a half, despite her protestations, my wife did not speak to her parents and they had limited access to their grandchild. It was a terrible time.
That's not ancient history, Tommy. It was a year ago.
And you could laugh at the question as if it was a joke? You could publicly state that it doesn't exist?
To see you lie so easily, I am afraid I had to ask myself: what else are you lying about?"Link:
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Slowly, an infinitesimal bit of normalcy creeps in.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
When her order didn't arrive, she called their customer service department, illuminated the exigency of combining swear words and chocolate in this particular situation, and was told, "Miss, we're a family company. We won't print those words for you."
As my equally beloved cousin, E, noted, tongue-in-cheek in the best possible way, we have been a good influence on (the younger) H. And as I have frequently underscored here and elsewhere, I might just have the greatest family in the heliosphere.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The Daily Beast features an excerpt from William J. Mann's upcoming tome, Elizabeth Taylor: How to be a Movie Star (and make sure and check out its attending photo gallery):
Monday, October 19, 2009
I have gotten in touch with many of you and, for obvious reasons, my response time is slowed right now, but I will be in contact and continue to thank each of you soon.
In the aforementioned respect, I feel incredibly fortunate. It's surreally dichotomous, though, to be bathed in love while churning in agony.
Please keep sending good wishes and/or prayers to TJ's family.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I raise my Valium and Halloween candy to you, you beautiful Irish bastards.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Hey, all. TJ's memorial/celebration of life will, quite fittingly, take place at the new(ish) Mountaineers Building this Friday, October 16th, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Address: 770 Sandpoint Way NE, Seattle, 98115, in Goodman Rooms A and B. Many of you have asked what you can do to help. There will be a slideshow. Send me photos soon at email@example.com and I'll send them to Stephen, who is overseeing it.
We are all grieving, but unquestionably, TJ would want us to have a bit of fun with this, so if some of the photos are goofy, well, all the better. Let's give our lad the send off he deserves.
Also, please don't take it personally if I haven't returned your deeply kind phone call or email yet. I am shattered and need to not talk about it today or tomorrow. TJ was due at my place last Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. and TJ always sent me a "Home safe!" email the first thing he was in the door, always sent me his itinerary, and always let me know when to "officially" worry.
The tipping point for the latter on this trip was late afternoon Wednesday. Hence a number of you seeing me at Sherman's Tuesday evening reading and Dave's noon reading on Wednesday last week. TJ, like all climbers, had encountered unforeseen but essentially benign circumstances previously and returned to Seattle several hours late, but never so late he was in the officially designated worry zone.
At 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, I left TJ a voicemail and when I still hadn't heard from him by 7:30 p.m., I let his closest climbing partner/great guy/heroic friend, Tim, know that TJ was late. And immediately, Tim, TJ's extraordinarily intelligent and kind, sister, Joy, and I kicked into gear. Tim actually left that night, a full 12 hours ahead of the Chelan County Search and Rescue. Then right away, additional truly heroic climbing friends joined the Search and Rescue teams and, indeed, surpassed the efforts of the professionals. Joy received information from the SAR teams, relayed it to me, and I disseminated it to relevant parties and to TJ's copious friends.
I don't think I can say these words out loud again this week without falling apart. And all of us still have Friday to get through. It will be a celebration of TJ's amazing and singular life, but celebration or not, a number of us are churning in agony.
And I hope this doesn't sound unkind, but if no one would call before 10:00 a.m. West Coast time, I would really appreciate it. A number of us have barely slept in a week and the last three days I've been woken by early phone calls after only having fitfully slept a few hours.
Thank you again, all of you, for everything. The outpouring of love for TJ and for his friends means more than I can possibly convey. And I will definitely be in touch with each of you very soon.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
What follows is a highly detailed and accurate account of TJ's search and rescue and recovery, posted by TJ's friend, Jason Griffith, who was part of the search and rescue team. Scroll down to the bottom to the longer post under the username, "Heinrich":
Saturday, October 10, 2009
TJ's sister, Joy Langley, has asked that all of us decline media requests and allow her to field media inquiries and interviews and I agree with her 100%. As someone who frequently interviews people, I understand, as we all do, that reporters are merely doing their job, but it makes the most sense for there to be one media spokesperson and for it to be TJ's adored and supremely intelligent sister, Joy.
KIRO very nicely approached me and I declined for the above reasons. Then the reporter asked if anyone in Seattle's theater community would speak on camera and I politely explained that, no, they wouldn't, out of respect for the family's wishes. Please get the word out to, as I said, TJ's boundless group of friends.
Thanks so much,
No further updates yet. Keep praying and sending great thoughts to bring our lad home alive, safe, and immediately. And thank you all for extraordinary kindness.
Also, as I just posted on my Facebook page, the search for TJ is underway again today. And because it's the weekend, more A-list and highly experienced climbers are helping the Chelan, King, and Snohomish County Sheriffs' Offices with the search.
We love you. Come home now.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Seattle Times piece:
And here is what I posted w/ it:
"Some hopeful news: according to this new Wenatchee newspaper piece, TJ's pack was believed to be spotted by copter on Thursday (more on that in a sec) and the Chelan County Sheriff's Office is reporting they spoke w/ climbers in the area who saw someone matching TJ's description alive and well on Wed. It it worth noting that none of this information was relayed by the Sheriff's Office to the three of us at the top of the communication coordination effort. (What the hell?) Still, it is hopeful news. Please, everyone, continue w/ your good wishes and/or prayers as the search is off for tonight but will resume again in the morning. And much love to all of you for your extraordinary kindness toward TJ, the Langely family, to me, and all his many friends. It means more than I can articulate."
Feel free to disseminate far and wide.
Description, presumed locale, et al of my best friend, TJ Langley (legal name George Terry Langley Jr.), who has been missing in the North Cascades...
Please click for photos and additional pertinent information. Please forward to climbing and/or outdoor folks. Or anyone, really. The more people who know to keep an eye out, the better.
If you have viable information, contact me at ldremousis at yahoo dot com and I'll forward it to the Chelan County Sheriff's Office or you can contact them directly.
Please continue to keep TJ and his family in your prayers and/or thoughts of any stripe. And please see my previous post for additional details.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Musician Tai Shan and the October 10th benefit for People for Puget Sound (because it's divine when artists really do give back):
If you haven't already, you can discover more about Tai, her crave-it-like-candy music, and the upcoming fundraiser, which Governor Christine Gregoire is attending:
Monday, October 05, 2009
The historical Benson Hotel, last Thursday evening, my final of three nights in Portland. (Again, thank you Expedia recession-fueled discount!)
But you know how there is usually that one person who sends your mind tiptoeing toward thoughts of ear-flicking and spitwads? Yeah, that.
For the past eleven years, I've been asked, "Why do you have pet bunnies?" This is why I have pet bunnies. The joy I derive from them has, thus far, preempted felonies I otherwise might have attempted, plus they are among the smartest, cleverest, and super-cutest creatures on earth. (There are evolutionary reasons for this I won't detail now, but rabbits, like most prey animals, are startling clever because otherwise they would be some jackal's mid-afternoon snack.)
So, let us all pause and thank the bunnies on what has been an oddball day because without them, someone might have gotten a bag of flaming dog crap on their welcome mat.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
- Volunteer to become your building's condo secretary because your neighbors, by and large, are deeply awesome and you'd rather take on a job for which you're qualified than get drafted for one at which you'd blow.
- Approach said position in an egalitarian manner, sending out missives in which you underscore "the Condo Board is not Fidel Castro" and that you welcome viable input.
- Check your inbox.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
1) At one point, you were the country's leading consumer advocate and, unquestionably, were responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives. What the hell happened?
2) Do you ever pause and consider the stunning level of your jack-assery when you purported during your 2000 campaign for president that there was absolutely no difference between the Democrats and Republicans? Of course, all sentient adults know both parties are rife with corruption and venality, but in light of George W. Bush's eight year Reign of Mistakes, are you willing to cede that perhaps Al Gore possessed far greater intellect, empathy, and competence and might not have steered the country into a shit-laden ditch?
3) A number of your friends spoke publicly after the 2000 election that they supported you because you assured them your run was essentially symbolic and that you were shining a spotlight on pertinent issues that might otherwise get overlooked, but that if the polls indicated a dead heat between Gore and Bush, you would gracefully bow out. Of course, you did not, and the same friends claimed to be disillusioned by your festering demagoguery. Receive a lot of birthday cards anymore, sir?
4) Who has the bigger persecution complex: you or Sarah Palin? Have you considered battling for the title via a dart game or arm wrestling?
5) Still with the rumpled suit? Really?
6) Will you go away ever? What if we all chip in for candy or a nice pot roast?
Friday, October 02, 2009
Returned last night from my three day and two night jaunt to Portland and I had an utterly delightful time. Madly in love with the Pearl District and imbibed 72 hours of wonderfulness. I've unpacked, returned pressing emails, and the adrenaline has worn off, however, so as goofy as it sounds to the uninitiated, I'm going back to sleep now. Will detail sundry adventures here and will post additional photos capturing the sublime and the slightly ridiculous on Facebook.
Much love, Portland! You can call me anytime.
[From top to bottom: foyer of The Benson Hotel, where I stayed thanks to a nifty recession-fueled discount via Expedia; posters for a super-cool bike-inspired show at a gallery on SW Stark; the legendary Powell's Books; U.S. National Bank building on 5th Ave and SW Stark; outdoors supply store on 3rd Ave near Voodoo Doughnuts.]
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Said night featured the infamous Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau and its announcement received nationwide attention. Bright and I are Facebook friends and she asked if any of her Seattle compadres would be willing to attend and report for her blog; I tossed my hat in the ring and was one of two she chose.
I've attached the link (see below) to the version that ran on Bright's estimable site. Also, I've included my original, longer piece, which Bright herself suggested I post here. (When you read her intro, you'll see why elements of mine became superfluous.) While I observed the festivities, as it were, I experienced a twinge in my shoulder for the second day in a row. And when I wrote the following evening, I developed the most excruciating headache of my life. I thought perhaps it was akin to a migraine or maybe something worse. One could make a case I should have gone to the E.R. immediately, and if it had occurred during 2004 to 2007, when I had dozens of pieces come out in rapid fire, I would have. But due to the perniciously long recovery time from the pneumonia in '08, this was the first deadlined assignment I had taken on in over a year and I was so fucking furious that my health presented yet another obstacle, that I plowed through and handed it off to Bright a mere hour late. Of course, by the next day, a rash had developed along the pain's neural pathway and when I told my mom she said, "Honey, you've got shingles. Get to Dr. Harris' office immediately and I'll meet you there." And there went most of summer of '09. Hence, not posting this sooner: like most aspects of my life, it got lost in the shuffle of what transpired next.
Bright and I reached somewhat varying conclusions regarding Letourneau and Fualaau's relationship, but she was a joy to work with and is a perfectly delightful human being, to boot.
The version that ran on Bright's blog (the headline is not mine):
My original version:
A blonde woman in garnet red lipstick, a black strapless dress and gold flip-flops laughs and poses for pictures with a cadre of drunk college girls. She is toned and tan and appears younger than her 47 years as she waves to a man onstage in his 20s wearing a backwards cap and gold medallion who cues Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll” on his MacBook under the auspices of DJ-ing. A nearby reveler points at the woman and asks his friends, “Can you imagine if she had been a guy teacher? Alcatraz, baby! Al-ca-traz!” His female companion answers, “I know it sounds weird, but I always thought she was hot.”
“Really? Why are you headed there?” my cabdriver asked, perhaps sensing I’m not the sort to frequent Seattle’s cheesy downtown sports bars, Fuel.
“I’m going to Hot for Teacher Night, that thing with Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau,” I replied, referencing the infamous convicted Level 2 sex offender and her onetime underage victim, now adult husband of the past four years. “I’m covering it, though. It’s not like I plan to make new friends tonight.”
“I don’t know,” he said contemplatively. “If you look at the fact they started over a decade ago, they’ve lasted longer than most marriages I can think of. They really seem to want to be together.”
For the rest of the ten-minute drive, I mulled over what he said. True, Letourneau met Fuluaau when she was his second grade teacher in 1990 and, according to court testimony, first sexually assaulted him in 1996 when he was 13 and she was 34 and married with four kids, after having been Fuluaau’s teacher again, this time for seventh grade. They began what they viewed as a relationship and even during her second subsequent prison stint, she was held in solitary confinement for six months after caught smuggling letters to him.
So, sure, in the aggregate, they had been “together” in some form for over a decade, no small feat. But most great love stories don’t involve one party’s family suing the school district and police department for failing to protect their son and for child support of the two children the couple in question now has.
We arrived at Fuel; I paid my fare and hopped out. A truly vile dance mix of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” blared from inside and engulfed the sidewalk, nearly drowning out the commotion gathering outside the entrance. A man in his 40s wearing a softball shirt and wire rim glasses yelled at three security guards while two local television stations filmed the exchange.
“She’s a child rapist!” the man shouted. “You’re making money off of sexual assault! If the genders were reversed, there’s no way you’d be hosting this thing!”
“She served her time, man! She served her time!” the security guards, all of whom were bald and clad in black leather vests, shouted back.
“You guys could have had One Dollar Beer Night instead! There are other ways to get a crowd!”
Two of the guards lumbered to their motorcycles parked on the street a few feet away and summarily revved them as loud as they could, obliterating the man’s words and ruining the stations’ footage. “We own the sidewalk in front of the club and I’m telling you right now you have to get off it,” the third guard said, the threat implied.
The man appeared sad and disgusted and moved a few yards away. The guards, none of whom seemed to realize the extent of their cliché-addled douchebaggery, finally ceased the revving and menacing and I asked the man if he would like to discuss the evening’s theme. He said his name was Joe and that in the course of his career as a police officer in California, he had worked with dozens of sexual assault victims of both genders. “This whole evening is an atrocity toward domestic violence and rape. They’re profiting off the pain of others.”
I thanked him for his time and got in line. When I arrived at the front, I saw a sign reading, “No media or press not approved earlier this week.” A guard asked for five bucks and my I.D. “I saw you talking to that guy. Are you a reporter?”
“No,” I fudged, neglecting to mention that, also, I thought he was an asshole.
“Then why were you talking to that guy? I saw you asking him stuff.”
“I felt like talking to him. That’s allowed, isn’t it?” I replied, my sarcasm thick as his skull. A second guard checked my bag and eyed my notebook suspiciously. I met his gaze and said, “I carry one sometimes. So?”
Stumped, or maybe deciding it wasn’t worth the hassle, they took my money and let me in. Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” blasted from the sound system and I edged towards the mostly empty dance floor and spotted Fualaau onstage with his MacBook, ostensibly serving tunes but mostly providing spectacle. Patrons sporting a stunning array of crunchy and outdated haircuts crowded the bar and U-shape of surrounding tables, viewing Fualaau from afar as if he were a zoo act. He didn’t look up and, surprisingly, appeared almost timid, as if he weren’t quite sure how to proceed.
Letourneau was nowhere to be found and I asked a table of college girls with a giant inflatable pink penis on their table what they thought of the evening so far. “We’re just here for my bachlorette party!” one of them replied, adjusting the strap on her pink shiny halter dress. “We thought it would be fun!” she added, a bit of slur to her words.
Momentarily, a thunderous cheer tore through the crowd, not quite the kind that met Barack Obama on the campaign trail but more than, say, Jimmy Fallon might expect to elicit. I turned and saw a woman with almost daffodil yellow hair and superb legs and it took me a second to realize this was the once-frumpy schoolteacher I’d seen in countless hours of news footage. She beamed as dozens of camera phones flashed like popcorn-ing rhinestones. “Mary Kay!” an older woman in walking sneakers and capri pants yelled. “Make sure and tell Vili I’m the one who sent the baby book!” Letourneau smiled and returned the hug when the woman embraced her enthusiastically.
The bachlorette throng rushed Letourneau as if she were a long lost friend and the woman who launched a thousand punch lines responded in kind. On and on it went, each customer seemingly more rapturous than the previous one. A Fuel employee sold autographed “Hot for Teacher!” tee shirts and posters at a nearby folding table and looked slightly queasy. “How much is the merchandise?” I asked.
“Seven dollars for a poster and twenty for a tee shirt. We’ve sold a lot so far.”
“How do you feel about them making money like this?”
“I’m dating the owner’s cousin. He asked me to help out tonight and I couldn’t tell him no.” She paused, as if concerned someone would hear our exchange. “I’m neutral about Letourneau, but you don’t say ‘no’ to family.”
After another half hour, I left, deadened at the notion that in this room, it was verboten to suggest a convicted pedophile might not be worthy of affection or accolades.
On the cab ride home, the driver asked me, “Hot for Teacher Night? What’d you go to that thing for?”