I Miss the World

It’s been over a year since I’ve hugged my family.

It’s been over a year since I’ve performed on a stage.

It will soon be a year since my partner and I have welcomed friends into our (then new) apartment.

It will soon be a year since I’ve gathered in the homes of friends, crammed into crowded living rooms for birthdays or holidays or just because.

It will soon be a year since I said “See you soon!” and didn’t know that it was a lie.

None of this is unique to me.

The script for a show I never got to do and the monologue I learned for an audition that never happened, for a repertory season that never was, still sit on my desk. They are now buried beneath other things. But they are still there. Waiting. Reminding me of the time that’s been lost.

I have been exceptionally fortunate in the last year. When both my partner and I filed for unemployment due to loss of a job in his case and reduced work hours in mine, we encountered no problems. The money arrived promptly, unlike for so many others who languished (and who I know still languish) in the cogs of an overwhelmed system. I am able to work from home. My partner’s remaining job does not require him to interact with the public. Eviction from our then-new apartment was never a concern. And even if it was, we would have had places to turn to. Our loved ones have taken, and continue to take, the pandemic as seriously as we have since the beginning. Our worry for them is of the general sort that we all harbor these days, and not from reckless acts that we are unable to prevent.

And though I have lost count of the number of people that I personally know who have contracted Covid-19, and though the road to recovery has not been easy for many of them, none of them have died.

Today, that is true. I hope that it stays that way.

I have been unbelievably fortunate. Personal tragedy has thus far avoided knocking on my door. And on a micro level — on the level of day-to-day life in my apartment which has been both cage and sanctuary — things don’t look too bad, considering.

I have not allowed my focus to expand too much farther beyond that. Not for too long.

Because the rage at all that has happened and all that has been lost is too hot, too blinding, too much to look at. It is a monstrous, shifting thing that is too large, too profound for me to reckon with.

Nearly 500,000 dead in the United States alone is a statistic beyond my comprehension. My mind cannot grapple with it. My mind knows but cannot understand the scope of that loss. Because to understand is to unleash the primal scream that has lived in my throat for the past year, trapped like a wild animal searching desperately for release. I do not have enough breath in my body to sustain all that lives within that pent-up howl.

I cannot look too far beyond the day-to-day, because when I do I am reminded of other countries that reacted swiftly and decisively and whose residents are currently able to go about their lives while we are still in the middle of the nightmare and it is unbearable.

Because it is a reminder that it didn’t have to be this way.

Because it is a reminder that it is this way because people in power allowed it to be so. People in power allowed hundreds of thousands to die. People in power allowed a year’s worth (and counting) of our lives to be stolen.

And we’re the lucky ones. We’re still here.

I am not yet ready to examine that rage, which in actuality is grief. Not when we are still in the muck. Not when “tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day”, and we are forced to search for something, anything, to bring light and joy into our lives because it’s either that or go insane.

The writing of this essay is the longest that I’ve dared to stare it down. I do not like where it is leading me. But I needed to purge some of these feelings. I needed to name them. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

And so I will continue this exercise in patience. I will continue finding things that bring light and joy into a frightening world, because what the fuck else can I do? I will continue to endure, because in spite of everything there will be better days on the horizon.

But I miss my friends.

I miss my family.

I miss the world.

Bueller? Bueller?

Hi folks.

What a year, huh?

I’m popping back onto this site for what is becoming my one-post-per-year, partly to distract myself from the 2020 presidential election count, and to mention a few creative projects:

I’ve been busy most of this year with launching and running a fiction podcast: The Godfrey Audio Guide. It’s the audio tour for a fictional museum, which is something in between the Getty Museum and the Winchester Mystery House. You can find it at anchor.fm/the-godfrey-audio-guide or in most major podcast apps. I started working on it long before the pandemic hit, but it’s been a creative lifeline with all my other artistic projects on indefinite hold until the United States can get its shit together regarding the coronavirus.

Sigh.

But I digress.

If you give it a listen and want to support the show financially, you can do so via our Patreon: patreon.com/thegodfreyaudioguide. You can also follow the show on both Twitter and Instagram @thegodfreyguide.

And on another creative note, I wrote a (very) short story for Slighly Unsettling Stories, Volume III, called “Muscle. Memory.”:

Spoooooookkkkkkkyyyyyyyy

The collection is a series of short stories inspired by corresponding illustrations. All of the illustrations are by Mary Kershisnik, who is also the one who put the collection together in the first place. It’s available over at Amazon, as both an ebook and paperback.

That’s it. That’s the post.

I hope you all are staying safe and sane. Take a deep breath. Drink some water. Eat something tasty. Do something that brings you joy.

Take care of yourselves.

Some changes to the site

Hi everyone! If you’ve still stuck around after all this time, god bless you.

As you may have noticed, this site has turned into a bit of a ghost town for the last year-and-a-half. With only a few exceptions, I’ve definitely let the proverbial cobwebs and dust bunnies take over the blog.

That’s mostly due to my focus shifting to larger, more long-term writing projects and, quite frankly, the effort of creating continual content to post here got a little overwhelming. So I stopped posting.

But during the radio silence here on the blog, I’ve had the chance to:

  1. Polish up an adult fantasy manuscript that I am now shopping around to agents.
  2. Write and revise a play centered around the myth of Persephone (and other figures from Greek mythology), co-produce a staged reading of said play, and start seeking opportunities for a full production.
  3. Get a short story published! The Los Angeles NaNoWriMo contingent self-publishes a short story anthology every year, and my story “Dream Eater” was selected for the 2019 edition, Journeys to Uncharted Lands. The anthology can be purchased here in both paperback and ebook format.

Picture

Look at how pretty the anthology is! Look at it!

And that’s just what’s been happening on the writing front. Forget about trying to balance that and also live the actor’s life in Los Angeles. But yeah. Long story short: I’ve been busy.

But I also wanted to mention something else to you faithful few who are still following along. During this time of more focused writing, I’ve prioritized trying to get my work professionally published. As such, I’ve taken down all the poetry and short fiction on this site. Don’t worry, they still exist on my computer and my back-up hard drive. But I’d ideally like to have you all read them in a physical book one day. So they had to disappear for the time being.

The blog posts/opinion pieces still remain, as do my reading wrap-ups (though I shudder to think at the backlog of posts I’d need to write if I want to catch you all up on what I’ve been reading–a year and a half is a long time! So many books have been read!). And going forward this site will stay in that vein. No more poetry, no more short stories. I do hope, however, to keep you apprised of the progress I make on my various projects. Maybe it’ll help me stay accountable to my self-imposed writing goals. I’ve learned that I work best with a deadline that isn’t entirely of my own making.

That’s it for now! Hopefully it won’t be too long before I’m back here again.

Ten years in the City of Angels

Today officially marks ten years since I moved to Los Angeles. With my entire life packed in the back of our Chevy Suburban, on August 18, 2009 my parents and I made the six-hour drive down to the University of Southern California, where I was to start as a freshman theatre major.

I’ve been thinking a lot about her recently. My eighteen-year-old self. Of the excitement and fear she felt at moving away from home to a teeming, unfamiliar city. Of how shy she was. Of how long it took for her not to find a community, but to feel like she belonged within it. Of how starry-eyed and more-than-a-little naive she was.

And I wonder what she would think of me now, as I stand here on the far side of the decade between us.

Outside the confines of this city, in which so many of us hail from Someplace Else, when someone asks me where I’m from I tell them I’m from Los Angeles. Though still reserved, I’m bolder now – growing comfortable in your own skin has a tendency to do that. I’ve managed to surround myself with people I admire and trust and love, who make the good days great and the bad days bearable. And though the hard reality of what it means to live a creative life has tarnished the innocent sheen with which I first came to LA, I’m still here, striving hopefully onward.

I like to imagine it would encourage her to see me standing on the other side of it all. That it would give her the fortitude to navigate the coming peaks and valleys, both professional and personal, awaiting her on the horizon. That she might begin to understand she’s made of stronger stuff than she thinks.

How else could she have lasted ten years as an artist in the City of Angels?

Cheers to the first decade, Los Angeles. May there be many more.

Every Woman Has a Story Like Mine

“I want to fuck your daughter.”

Does my own #MeToo story still count if I was unaware of it for much of my life?  Can I still claim it as my own unfortunate, unwanted slice of the #MeToo movement when it has not traumatized me in the way other women have been traumatized by their experiences?

I have been wondering this a lot recently, particularly in light of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the other courageous women coming forward with their accusations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh.  Truly horrible things were done to them.  Nothing happened to me – not technically, anyway.  But of course it counts.  Of course I can claim it.  Because the only reason it did not re-write my entire perspective on the world is because my parents kept the details of it from me for over a decade.

Because how do you explain to a seven-year-old, who doesn’t even know what sex is yet, that a boy at school says he wants to fuck her?

“I want to fuck your daughter.”

I don’t remember many details of this particular period of my life.  But what I do remember is this: His name was Jimmy.  He was nine, just a couple years older than myself.  I knew of him because he and a friend’s older brother were in the same class.  I remember Jimmy talking to me during recess sometimes, and giving me a necklace one day.  When I came home with it and my parents asked who had given it to me, I told them.  They then told me to stay away from Jimmy, and not to take anything else from him, and to get an adult if he was ever bothering me.

Even at seven years old, I remember finding this to be an odd request.  It wasn’t like my parents to tell me not to make new friends.  But I listened.  In the end it didn’t end up mattering, because Jimmy never spoke to me again.

It wasn’t until much later, when I was twenty, that I learned what had actually been going on.  I learned from my mom that during this time, Jimmy had been calling our phone number, and saying to whichever of my parents picked up the phone:

“I want to fuck your daughter.”

I don’t recall how he got our home number, but in all likelihood I probably gave it to him.  Because why would a child think twice about giving that information to someone?

At first my parents thought the call was a bad joke.  I was only seven, after all.  Whoever was calling must have had the wrong number, the wrong house, the wrong daughter.

But the calls didn’t stop.  And so my parents met with officials at my school.  Told my teachers to be on the look out.  Told administrative officials who monitored us during recesses to keep an eye on me, and to keep Jimmy far away from me wherever possible.

And then my parents called the police.

The police gave my parents a means of tracing a call after it had been picked up.  So the next time Jimmy called, the police would be notified of the phone number and address on the other end of the line.  Sure enough, when Jimmy called again with his familiar refrain – my mom was the one to answer the phone that day – she traced the call and hung up.

She told me that after it happened, she found my dad in the garage and said, without preamble, “I caught the fucker.”

Later, the police could neither confirm nor deny to my parents whether or not it had been Jimmy on the other end of the line.  But they had made a trip out to the person’s house to investigate.

The calls ceased after that.  And at school, Jimmy left me alone from there on out.

I am not haunted by the events of this story.  Nothing happened to me, not really.  I did not even know the extent of what happened until thirteen years after the fact.  I even have the audacious luxury of forgetting about it sometimes.

But I am haunted by other things.  I am haunted by the specter of what could have happened if any number of factors in my life had been different: if I had less vigilant parents; if my teachers and school administrators had not believed them; if the police had not believed them; if I had not had the privileged protection of being caucasian and from a solidly middle class family…

Etc.

Etc.

Etc.

What If and Almost are ghosts that hover on the periphery of my awareness, particularly now.

Because whether or not Jimmy would have actually harmed me is irrelevant.  How young he was at the time is irrelevant.  Because by age nine the world had already taught him – directly or indirectly – that female bodies could be acquired for his use and disposal with gifts and pretty words and, when those methods failed, by outright demanding them.  And it is a very short step from demanding women’s bodies to taking them by force.

He knew enough about the word fuck and what it meant to threaten me with it.

If you are old enough to know what sex is, and you threaten someone with sexual violence, you know what you are doing.

I don’t share this story now for pity or sympathy.  Again, for most of my life I was unaware that I even had a story to tell at all.  But every woman has one.  Many are more harrowing.  Many are less so.  But every woman has a story like mine, and so I’m sharing it now.  I am adding my personal cry to our collective, rage-filled scream, demanding an end to the systemic predation of women’s bodies.

Enough.

#MeToo.

America, The Dream

I’ve been thinking a lot about The American Dream.

Not so much the “anyone can be anything if they work hard and put their mind to it” American Dream, but the idea of America itself – the nation the founding fathers imagined it might be, if given the chance.  A just nation, a free nation, one in which all men are created equal, with certain unalienable rights.

Both interpretations are, of course, fictions.  As a country we have never lived up to either, not for everyone.  And in some cases – the institutionalization of slavery, the genocide of native populations, the illegal internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II, just to name a few – we as a nation have flagrantly betrayed the ideals of The Dream.

And yet The Dream persists.  People from all across the face of the earth still flock to our shores, on the promise of The Dream.

It persists, I think, because we as a nation refuse to give up on it.  Because we either want or need to believe that it can one day become reality.

Personally I don’t believe that will ever happen.  It certainly won’t happen in my lifetime.  But perhaps if we are always moving towards the ideals of The Dream – always striving to make this country more just, more equal for everyone who calls it home – maybe we’ll be all right in the end.

The United States of America is a country as flawed as its people, and those flaws – while not insurmountable – are great.

And yet for all their flaws, its people have the capacity for greatness, too.

Happy Fourth of July.

Wonder Woman, Moana, and why they matter

Have you ever experienced the sensation of not realizing how hungry you are until food is placed in front of you?  Of not realizing that you were hungry at all until you’re offered something to eat?

That is the closest I can get to describing what I felt while watching Moana last fall, and again last night when I saw Wonder Woman.

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Air Travel aka The Poor Man’s TARDIS

I’ve been traveling quite a bit this week, and my journeying isn’t even over yet.  As of about 9pm tomorrow I will have been on three planes in six days.  Flash forward to a few weeks from now and that number will have jumped up to a total of six plane rides in a month.  As someone who (much to my chagrin) has neither the time nor the resources to do as much traveling as I would like, that is a lot of time spent up in the air, soaring amongst the clouds.

It is perhaps because of that reason that I have recently been marveling at the sheer miracle that is air travel.  Or marveling at it more so than I normally do.  Because think about it: you get on board a huge hunk of metal that really has no business at all in even dreaming of flight, and then what does it do?  In a mere matter of hours it spirits you away to a completely different spot on the globe.  A journey that not so many generations ago would have taken days, weeks, or months to complete (depending on how far you’re going) can now be made in a matter of hours.

It’s easy to forget such an astounding fact when the whole process has become so commonplace – even mundane if you do it regularly enough.

And that’s not even the most extraordinary part of it all.  There’s also the whole low-key time-traveling bit.  While all of my travels this month are confined to the west coast of the US and I therefore don’t have to change time zones, I always think back to my flights to and from London when I studied abroad there for a semester (and which are the current record-holder for longest flights I’ve ever been on).  Flying to the UK from California sent me forward in time.  And the return flight to California sent me back in time – to the point where after I had spent 11 hours up in the air, I’d only lost about 3 hours on the ground.

I don’t know about you folks, but that’s amazing to me.  It’s certainly the closest I’ll ever get to being a Time Lord, so I’ll take it.

Now if only airplanes could be bigger on the inside, too…

On enthusiasm and inspiration (creative and otherwise)

This should come as no surprise to any of you, but one of my favorite things about living in LA is the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s a two-day event that takes over the entirety of the University of Southern California campus (Fight on, Trojans!) and is a weekend-long celebration of the written word.  There are dozens of panels and discussions with authors; local (and not-so-local) vendors of books and all things literary set up shop in booths all across the university; live music serenades festival-goers throughout the day; food trucks assemble to create a makeshift food court.  And over 100,000 people descend upon USC over the course of the weekend to take part in it.

100,000 people who are as big a book geek I am.

It is magical, and not just for the obvious reasons listed above.

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