Monday, November 30, 2009

And now, let us raise our soy hot chocolate to ladies w/ uncanny timing and boundless good hearts:

Last Wednesday, as I was out running errands, it was pouring rain and gunmetal gray both in and outside my head. When I arrived home, I discovered the most delightful early Christmas gift from my beloved friend, Jade: a fuchsia basket bursting with a panoply of chocolates from Dylan's Chocolate Bar, one of my favorite places in Manhattan and the known galaxy. And the thought behind the gift was the best part: she said she wanted to remind me of the sweetness in the world.

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):

My close friend, R, is in town and we had a toasty good afternoon yesterday that included story swapping, his wise counsel as someone who has been through this (he lost someone he loved deeply to an aneurysm, i.e. like TJ, she was here then gone in a blink), much laughter at long-running jokes, borscht, maple buttercremes, and a long walk.

Not bad under the circumstances.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Much love, fellas:

I spent a bittersweet but delightful afternoon yesterday with S and P at the Vivace on the northeast part of Broadway. Last Thanksgiving weekend, the three of us and TJ corralled at Dilletante, swapping tales and laughing ourselves silly. (TJ and I then went to a furniture store on Pike Street to retrieve a chest of drawers I'd purchased. With typical strength and perhaps a wee bit of bravado, he carried it under one arm from the store to my car around the corner and repeated the process when unloading it in my garage and riding the four floors up to my condo.)

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

Well, that clears that up:

Turns out, despite my best cheerful efforts and the love of those around me, the holiday season and grief mix about as well as a kitten and a cobra.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

It's bittersweet...

...that you can spend 21 years, i.e. half your life, intertwined with another and still feel as if you didn't have enough time. I'm thankful beyond measure for the days he and I had together. And, of course, for my Nobel laureate family, friends, and colleagues.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

To paraphrase the line from "A Hard Day's Night": gear, fab, and all the other pimply hyperbole:

As I wrote on Facebook yesterday afternoon:

"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

Hey, all! A bit of an update:

Seven weeks in, I think I've returned everyone's first round of incredibly kind phone calls, emails, and responded with thank you cards to the bevy of flowers and gifts I've been massively fortunate to receive. However, and this is a "problem" I am grateful to have, I am still not caught up on the second and, in some cases, third and fourth rounds of communications.

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

"Incidentally, this record is available in the foyer"--Eric Idle

As with any death, TJ's has had its attending share of absurdities and inanities. Folks are still posting on his Facebook page (if you believe he can hear you, as I do, and we'll get to that in a sec, can't you just talk to him directly?); his Facebook page is still up almost seven weeks after his death; a local theater company that is ten grand in the hole and who bears someone close to it who declared personal bankruptcy over a year ago has started a "memorial fund" in TJ's name (yes, that last one was awkwardly worded, strictly for legal reasons); TJ donated money to said theater company last year, but had no intention of acting for it again (if you disagree on the previous point, you're calling TJ a liar); he had last acted for said theater company at a staged reading in September 2007 and in one of its plays in April 2006; the aforementioned individual close to said theater company used to literally beg me to write about it, despite the fact I repeatedly declined (TJ was a brilliant actor, but with few exceptions, the best part of the company's repertory); TJ had stepped down from the board of said company years ago because he thought it was poorly managed financially (TJ excelled at investing and cash-related matters); because TJ's family knew none of the above, the aforementioned individual has turned TJ's death into an ostensibly charitable money-making opportunity, despite the fact TJ, while being incredibly charitable with money and time, never would have contorted the death of any of his friends for his own purposes, and he did consider said individual a friend, which makes the whole shebang that much more of a clusterfuck.

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
Enjoy it
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
It's true
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

And this week's shout-outs go to:

  • 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.
  • 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:
  • 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.
And if I forgot you, please, speak up: I'm a bit fuzzy-headed now for obvious reasons. Really, though, I cannot thank everyone enough. I remain grateful beyond measure.

Friday, November 20, 2009

There's been a lot of "letting go",... use grief parlance, the past few weeks.

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

I just received the New York Times Breaking News Alert that...

...Rudy Giuliani has decided not to run for governor of New York.

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

Two reasons, in retrospect, I'm glad I had shingles this past summer:

[Photo: May 29, 2009. My front left quadrant, which basically resembled my back left quadrant. Good times.]

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:

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

Women are nearly 52% of the population and, of course, we're not and shouldn't be a...


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... crackles with the very best of words and word by-products.

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:

Poked around and discovered someone w/ whom I was friends years ago...

...lists both The Secret and The Celestine Prophecy among her favorite books, which confirms what I long suspected: that she was born sans brain-stem.

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

A huge fucking shout out to my brother, who just...

...called and told me to be downstairs in 20 minutes because he is taking me to dinner. And when I told him I'd be dressed uncharacteristically casual as I was just about to head out the door for a walk, he replied, "It's Seattle. Who the hell is going to notice?"

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.

If this doesn't define "grief", I don't know what does:

I read excerpts of Sarah Palin's book this morning and I don't have it in me to make fun of her today.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Helpful; not helpful:

1) My friend, Karen, and I met at the Vivace on the northeast part of Broadway this afternoon and she had a glazed old fashioned and a card that read, in part, "It's always too soon" waiting for me. As previously and oft-noted, nothing is fun in the way it was a month and a half ago nor feels remotely the same, but in context, spending time with her and sharing stories of one another's lives and writing and pets was fun. Her kindness and listening and laughter (depending on the story, obviously) were deeply meaningful, particularly as we've known each other for years, but this is the first one-on-one time we've spent as she reached out last week and said she'd like to take me to coffee. I feel grateful and connected.

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

If you love "30 Rock", Tina Fey, laughter, language, erudition and...

...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

I'm confident he'd be the first person to agree with me:

As I posted on Facebook today, endless ponies and snowcones to those whose kindness and understanding have been unparalleled. As I've noted many times, with all the words at my disposal, I cannot convey what it has meant and the degree to which it is sustaining me. I remain and shall remain forever grateful.

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,, 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:

A high school classmate of mine just lost his nine month-old son to...


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

Bringin' back the funny, albeit circuitously:

I have written intermittently for the estimable and crackling literary collective, The Nervous Breakdown, for the past two and a half years. Brimming with talent both quite well-known and ascending, I recommend TNB to anyone who values high quality writing presented from a panoply of views. Next Sunday, it launches in a new format, about which I and a number of others are quite stoked.

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: had recommended to Brad that I fill one of three associate non-fiction editor slots. I love and respect TNB and was thrilled at the prospect to work again w/ Eric (who I first got to know when he was my editor at The Believer). The more Brad limned the details, the more enthusiastic I became and I readily accepted. All players involved know the parameters of my health and my position, like all the associate editors, will involve helping to establish content, in my case, non-fiction, one week a month.

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:

High five for elected officials doing what they were elected to do:

I heartily congratulate and, if possible, would fete with Mom's infamous baklava the House members who passed the new health care bill. Well done! Cheek kisses all around.

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

For scads of reasons, it feels inconceivable TJ...

...died a month ago today. He was due at my place 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 6th; we were going to go to Sherman's Town Hall reading for War Dances together. As I've written about previously, TJ always gave me his itinerary, designated his estimated arrival time home and the time at which I should "officially" worry, and always emailed me, "Home safe!" when he first got in the door. The official worry time for this trip wasn't until late Wednesday afternoon, October 7th.

Of course, we didn't know that by this juncture, he was already dead. His death wasn't confirmed until Saturday October 10th, when his closest climbing friend, Tim, found his body. By 6:00 p.m. on October 10th, before the search and rescue effort had been announced as a recovery effort, KING, KIRO, and KOMO had already pestered me and others for an on-camera interview. I, like most of us, deferred to the family's wishes and declined. (I would have done so of my own volition, but anyway.) All three affiliates were unable to get confirmation as to TJ's status from the Chelan County Sheriff's Office and they found this incredibly irksome, as if their story was in no way connected to a man's life. TJ and I had discussed this possible, god-forbid scenario many times and what would happen if I got the call should the worst occur. Instead of waiting, I got the Chelan County Sherrif's office #s from TJ's friend, Adrienne M., who was at my place at the time. I got through to Lt. Agnew from the Chelan County Sheriff's Office who is one of the most scurrilous and unprofessional individuals with whom I've dealt under any circumstances. After I asked three brief questions, she terminated our conversation with, "This is really a matter for the Coroner's Office now."

The above picture is one of my favorites of TJ and me. The two of us are clowning around with the giant metal bunny sculpture in my living room last December after our annual Christmas gift exchange, a tradition we started in 1992. His gift to me last year was the same as the year before: a trip to Manhattan to meet with one of the two agents who are interested in my novel. I would like to note, too, that when it briefly looked like I wouldn't have the cash for my current place, he offered me ten grand so the deal wouldn't fall through. I declined, of course, and it turned out I was able to purchase my condo. (Obviously.) And when I had shingles this summer and he did my grocery shopping and picked up my prescriptions? Despite my (loud) protestations, he refused to accept reimbursement. (As the weeks went on and I remained shingled, as it were, finally he caved, mostly to shut me up.) Also, when I was incredibly ill and broke between 2001 to 2004, including wheelchair bound again for a time? He refused to let me pay for coffee, movies, or meals. So, this "frugality" that was referred to many times at his memorial? Bullshit. My best friend and on-again/off-again boyfriend since 1988 was not frugal.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Today I cede the floor to my friend, Chris Estey:

Four years ago, my friend, Chris Estey, read an interview of mine in The Believer and was generous enough to write and tell me how much he enjoyed it. We didn't know each other at this point, but I was humbled and flattered, particularly as it was clear from the get go that he was quite talented and a good egg.

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 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

And, of course, the smile on the Mona Lisa:

It is with profound gratitude I relay again I have the best family, friends and colleagues a person could hope for. I feel astoundingly fortunate in this regard.

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

Fuck fucking fuck. Also: goddamnit.

In the midst of staggering grief, I've kept active as possible, not in an attempt to outrun it because, of course, you can't, but so I remain sane(ish). Nothing will feel remotely normal for a very long time and some nights I've literally felt as if I were losing my mind, but I think it's important the mechanics of living (going for a walk and writing each day, seeing family and friends, fetching groceries, et al) continue.

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

One '80s revival trend too many:

I respect that he was a brilliant tennis player and that, like all mortals, he has encountered obstacles and, of course, he is certainly entitled to "write" about them, but did anyone really need Andre Agassi to be ubiquitous again?