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1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?

Attended the Coney Island Mermaid parade.

Began collecting my various retirement trust funds. Should keep the pusskers in Friskies and me in goofy socks for the next 25 years or so – God willin’ and inflation don’t rise. (It will, of course.)

Visited an uncle I never knew I had. Tremendously nice guy. But there came that moment when I told him the story of Ted’s life and Ted’s kids, and he literally flinched because his father had been a very good father to him, but, of course, his father’s mistreatment of Ted turned Ted into a sociopath, ruined eight lives, you might say. It was a lot for a tremendously nice guy to take in.

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 2014's Resolutions:

Never make New Years’ resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes. Lucius in March; Rik – in October some time?

Neither death was unexpected. Both men had been in ill health for quite some time.

I was out of touch with both when they died. That didn’t matter. Long ago, they’d both been elected to permanent seats on the Advisory Board deep in my corpus callosum.

Initially, Lucius was one of my instructors at Clarion West. A very, very brilliant writer who never lived up to his promise: in part, because he never had the patience to tackle long-form fiction; in part, because there was such a huge disconnect between his writerly persona and his everyday life personality. If you met him, you might think he was one of the Duck Dynasty. His best known works are probably Life During Wartime and the Dragon Griaule cycle.

His best piece of writerly advice to me? “You always wanna bring it full circle, repeat the shit you say in the first paragraphs in the last paragraphs, you know? I don’t know why, but that always knocks ‘em dead.”

Sometime in the ‘90s, when Lucius was having serious IRS troubles, I invited him to move in with my family. This turned into a year and a half residency – rather longer than I had anticipated. Hijinks ensued. I should write about them some day.

We fell out during a 2007 trip to Europe. Lucius apparently had been nurturing a crush on me for many years; I won’t pretend I didn’t know about the crush and didn’t play to it on occasion when my ego needed bolstering. But I had no intention of sleeping with him, and he got really pissed at me as a result.

He was tremendously supportive of me as a writer, was constantly exhorting me to abandon my marriage and children and just do it. “You must be cruel-l-l-l,” he’d cackle, trilling his R’s.

He also shared my obsession with reality TV, so we spent many hours in deep telephonic communion together, annotating Survivor cycles – me from my bed in Monterey, him from his desk in Washington. Sadly, future generations of anthropologists will not have access to our hilarious discourse unless they learn to decode electrical signals that even now are wafting their way to Alpha Centauri.

Rik was Annie’s husband, and the only person in the House of Usher who actually saw what my childhood was doing to me and tried to make amends. They divorced, but Rik was very conscientious about maintaining the relationship.

Rik is the reason I went to college. If it had been up to my blood relatives, I would have dropped out of high school, and that would have been that. I would have spent some years living in a trailer park. Maybe my scientific aptitude would have found some expression in efforts at methamphetamine production, though not at the Walter White level. I’m pretty sure I’d be dead now.

Of course, I had a crush on Rik – he was extraordinarily beautiful in his younger days with eyes the exact color of the ocean on a day when the marine layer hangs at a thousand feet reach. He may have harbored some incestuous fantasies of his own. When he was a young assistant professor, he serially dated a number of my female friends.

His most important piece of advice to me? “In every situation, you have three options. You can say yes, you can say no, or you can simply walk away.”

I got married for the first time in the backyard of Rik’s Spruce Street house. On Rik’s advice, Bill and I eschewed lawyers for our divorce, and I didn’t ask for child support. Instead, I told Bill to fly Max down to Tustin once a month so that they could continue to maintain a real father/son relationship and to cover Max’s college costs. Since Max ended up getting a free ride at Deep Springs and a lot of financial support from Stanford, I’d say Bill ended up getting the best of that particular deal.

Rik’s father Jacinto was a high-ranking scientific muckety muck during World War II, so in some essential sense, Rik was living in the long shadow of his father – a fact that I didn’t realize until I was middle-aged. Jay was demented when I knew him – Alzheimer’s or some such. Jay had been such a bastard when his faculties were intact that his various caretakers – Rik and his wife Hazel – delighted in being caustic toward him (though they never actually mistreated him.)

The dementia turned out to be hereditary. Rik was finally officially diagnosed with it a couple of years ago.

We fell out over a number of different things. At a certain point, Rik became tired of functioning in loco parentis -- the age difference between us wasn’t actually all that great. He disapproved of a number of decisions I made (starting with hooking up with Ben), and, of course, he was right: They were horrifyingly bad decisions. At one time, we’d been quite intimate, but we gradually drifted apart.

Rik was finally diagnosed after he began behaving inappropriately in various public and private places. I loaned Max out to Alicia and Janet (Rik’s second wife) to help corral Rik upon occasion.

The final fissure came about as a result of my mother’s will. She’d made Rik her executor. In 2012, eleven years after her death, Robin turned 18 and it came time to distribute her bequest to him. Robin needed this as part of his college money. Robin was being his usual un-diligent self in following up on this, so I wrote to Alicia’s husband – who was managing the account – to try and expedite the process. Rik wrote me a scathing letter back, accusing me of trying to steal Robin’s college money. I was justifiably outraged.

I didn’t give a fuck when Rik died. Truth be told? I still don’t give a fuck. Burn in hell, Rik! I think to myself. However… The more enlightened part of me realizes that (a) I owe a great deal to Rik and (b) that awful letter was probably written by Rik’s dementia. So I’m going to go to Rik’s memorial service in California this coming May.

5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

A completed manuscript. Or two.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

November 27. Thanksgiving Day! Which I spent with my two boys in New Mexico.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Shedding the angst. I’m quite content with my little life these days.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Well, the Vista residency crashed and burned. Entirely not my fault.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

That thing that happened with my wrist a week or so back. My wrist is back to normal now. I still don’t know how that happened, though, and I’m curious abut it.

My ongoing autoimmune disease, which makes me feel like a leper in the warmer months.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

The car.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Max. As always.


BB (who is just the world’s most terrific friend.)

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Nobody’s, really.

14. Where did most of your money go?

In addition to the usual upkeep and maintenance expenses incurred by housing, food, phone, and transportation? Robin, I’d have to say. And I was happy to be in a financial situation where I could give him that support.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Nothing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

Fiona Apple’s Container:

I was screaming into the canyon
At the moment of my death
The echo I created
Outlasted my last breath
My voice it made an avalanche
And buried a man I never knew
And when he died his widowed bride
Met your daddy and they made you

I have only one thing to do and that’s
To be the wave that I am and then
Sink back into the ocean
Sink back into the ocean
Sink back into the ocean

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?


ii. thinner or fatter?


iii. richer or poorer?


18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Serious writing. Exercising.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Wasting time.

20. How will you be spending New Years?

Still trying to drum up plans for New Years Eve. New Years Day, I’m going to an open house.

22. Did you fall in love in 2010?

I don’t think I’m capable of falling in love anymore. It takes a certain willing suspension of disbelief, you know?

23. What was your favorite TV program?

I really, really liked Black Mirror. Foyle’s War – which takes on such a nice LeCarre spin after V-Day. Oh, and of course, the ever kinky-and-yet-corny Criminal Minds.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?


25. What was the best book you read?

Well, I’d have to say the book I enjoyed the most – but I wouldn’t describe it necessarily as a good book – was Nancy Horan’s Under the Wide and Starry Sky.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Fiona Apple.

27. What did you want and get?

A car.

28. What did you want and not get?

A surprisingly fulfilling year, so I’d have to answer N/A.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

John Michael McDonagh's Calvary.

Distant runners up: Birdman, What Maisie Knew.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 62. Can’t remember what I did.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

My year was pretty satisfying. Discovering some relative I never knew I had had died and left me a huge portfolio of high-performing tech stocks might have made it more satisfying. I’m not sure.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

Bag Lady. Let’s face it. Despite having worked in the fashion industry, fashion has always been a foreign concept to me. I'm happiest in uniforms.

33. What kept you sane?

Having an independent income.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Hmmmm… Maybe Bruce Willis? But only Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys and The Sixth Sense.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

Student loans.

36. Who did you miss?

Susan. Marybeth. Abe. Oddly enough, Lucius.

37. Who was the best new person you met?


38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Money isn’t important. Unless you don’t have any.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

See Fiona Apple above.


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Every Day Above Ground

September 2017

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