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^0406 2000–2008 ^0406 ELOPE PRESS


To learn from your mistakes, you must sympathize with those suffering from your mistakes. You must also believe in causation. Many leaders never learn from their mistakes. They have neither the capacity to sympathize nor the belief that others exist—or can therefore be caused to not exist.





o much has happened in the last eight years that I need superhuman concentration to forget it all.

But that’s a trick of perspective. It happened, I was there as participant or spectator, and while I “put it behind us” as quickly as I could, I was also obligated to “never forget.” Yesterday looms large in memory only because yesterday looms large in time. The base spreads wider when I stand at the bottom, but back up a decade or two, and I’ll be hard pressed to pick out the highrise corruption in the back from the lowrise scandal up in front. Time skews. In 2020, when I am fifty, what events will stand out in the skyline of my memory? Will they be the same events summarized in the sky writing of history? What is the story of the world compared to the story of my life? The world lives on (at least until the sun gets too hot or we trip the wire of our own extinction). But me, no, I won’t go on. I don’t have much time for all this remembering. I need to get on with forgetting. I need to get on with me.



“Killing an Arab, Loving an Arab” “Closet” “Alert,” “Green” “The Man Who Could Lift a House” “Ordinary Images” “The Things We Know” “kolli BOOS, Lost of kisses” “After the Spectacle” “Santiago’s Giraffe” “The Decade of My Disconnect” “Walls Have Ears, Walls Are Deaf” “We Think This Is Progress” “Let’s Break Everything We Can” “The Mole Wars” “Our Last Time in the Village” “Drag” “I Talk Politics Any Chance I Get” “New Orleans August 2005,” “Cassandra” “Submarine Dreams” “War & Other Kitchen Disasters” “Two Tours, Iraq & Back” “Eat,” “Sir Salman Rushdie,” “The Apology” “A Splintering of the Mind” “The Sun and the Rain and the Sky and the Music” “A Mother, Young and Old” “Please Do Not Avoid the True Issue” “Manifesto” “The Celebrity Orders Room Service” “My Life is a Dream, I Create the Universe” “Sailing towards the Shipwreck” “American Blend” “The Whitman Foundation League” “When the War Started” “Iowa: A Love Story” “Imposters” “Bullets Have No Effect” “Fear®” “Tap Class” “Letters to Diana” “David Foster Wallace” “Cold Front” “Patriot Acts” “Timeline of a Transformation” “Obeyma”

13 19 25 27 34 41 43 53 59 65 69 80 83 85 92 96 100 108 114 113 128 131 136 139 141 147 154 160 165 172 175 190 195 197 203 208 213 215 217 228 234 240 243 248

Joshua Gross Catherine Price Maggie Smith Nick Cottrell Spencer Dew Grant Perry Ghazaleh Etezal Alison Morse Maggie Shearon Jennifer Prado Faruk Ulay Kristina Moriconi Deron Bauman Jim McInvale Shari Goldhagen Steve Himmer Tony R. Rodriguez Diane Gifford-Gonzalez Claudia Smith Patricia Cumbie SSG. Stewart W. Boner Molly Gaudry Blythe Winslow Anjali Budhiraja Amy Guth Kurt Carlson David Erlewine Dave Housley Kevin R. Free Jaime Campbell James A. Reeves Lee Klein Heather Kelley Mike Ingram Josh Olsen John H. Matthews Dave Morrison Heather Kelley Carla Hagen Steve Almond Paul A. Toth Timmy Waldron Little Shiva Felix Sockwell


^0406 JOSHUA GROSS ^0406 [ESSAY]


y Lebanese girlfriend did not want to listen to the Cure’s “Killing an Arab.”

“Turn it off,” she said. This was odd. Helen was a devoted Cure fan. I

never listened to the Cure until Helen and I started dating. I wanted to make a witty remark to defuse the tension, but our eyes met and I was disarmed. I changed the song without comment, then snuck up behind her and nuzzled her neck. My arms dangled like hammers on a tool belt. Helen lingered, sighed, and then walked away. It wasn’t that Helen didn’t like this song or understand the connection to L’Estrange, and it wasn’t that she found Camus’ existentialism distasteful. She just didn’t like songs about killing Arabs. In real life, our peoples were killing each other day after day in places where no one was listening to the Cure and appreciating the literary references. We couldn’t enjoy the song’s catchy rhythm or ironic lyrics while bombs fell, katushas flew, and people were incinerated in



their homes. What used to be a harmless song soured into a taunt, a reminder of the gulf between us. Helen and I had created a tidy universe with a population of two. In this universe, it didn’t matter that I was a Jew and Helen was an Arab. We were beyond politics. On our first date in Washington, D.C., we skipped a tour of the Lincoln Memorial to tour each other instead. As the months passed, we discovered that Helen’s attempts to teach me French were as doomed as my throat-clearing lessons on the pronunciation of challah, her new favorite food. After eating steamed crabs in Baltimore, we made out, then realized we were sick to our stomachs; we narrowly avoided puking in each other’s mouths. We hiked in Shenandoah but were too distracted by each other to admire the natural beauty around us. In bedrooms and on mountaintops, we confessed our love. We ate pork buns in Chinatown. We exchanged nicknames: Belle, Sebastian, Baby, Bunny. We could even laugh at the irony when Helen peeled off my sweater to reveal a t-shirt emblazoned with “Don’t Worry, America, Israel is Behind You.” Politics slumbered alongside us. Sometimes it spoke in its sleep, sometimes it rolled over, but it did not wake up. And then, the war. Two Israeli soldiers had been kidnapped along the border of Lebanon. Surrounding the dream world Helen and I had created was a dense mist, but the morning newscast burned it away. Helen slept in my arms. “Two hundred twenty rockets fired, antitank missiles, civilian deaths,” the radio continued. I shook Helen awake. Helen had a broad face and large anime-eyes. She resembled a Lebanese version of the waving cat statues at Chinese restaurants. When she was happy, her face moved in a hundred directions, eyebrows bending and arching, nose scrunching, chin moving in slow semicircles as she bit her upper lip. Her laughter was intoxicating. But tragedy drained Helen’s happiness like sand through a sieve. Israeli reservists hitchhiked to the northern front. News of the war consumed Helen, muffling her laughter into distant memory.







Two years earlier, I’d hiked to the Lebanese–Israeli border to exchange cigarettes with gawky teenagers in IDF fatigues for a chance to look at Hizbollah positions through their binoculars. Helen had been to the border, too, on the other side looking in, or perhaps it was looking out. Had we glimpsed one another, tiny specks on the horizon? The war raged on, and we awoke each morning in agony, listening to the news on NPR. Helen still hadn’t heard from her aunts and uncles and cousins, and she feared the worst. I switched my alarm clock from RADIO to BUZZER. One morning a week later, the tension was physical. Helen and I were dressing for work. We ignored the blather of television pundits, but we couldn’t ignore the pain of our mutual silence. Helen threw her boots across the room. She clenched her fists. “We have to talk,” she said. “I know,” I replied. “You’re so distant.” I picked up Helen’s boots and brought them to her. “I don’t even know what to say,” was the best I could do. I was afraid if we talked, we would uncover the same irreconcilable differences haunting the talks between Arabs and Jews. If love had failed to elevate us beyond politics, I didn’t want to know. “Please. Give me some time.” A few days later, I left Helen in Washington and attended the wedding of a college friend. It was a Jewish wedding. Most of my friends from college were Jewish, and as we gathered together for cocktails, our talk turned to the war. Some of them had already met Helen; they liked her, had patted me on the back, as if congratulating me, and said we made “a great couple.” Now they were concerned. I told them we were doing our best, focusing on each other, and staying positive. I didn’t tell my friends I was terrified. Terrified that someone from Helen’s family would be killed by an Israeli bomb. Terrified



“People focus too much on colors. It could be numbers, it could be animals.” —Tom Ridge, First US Secretary of Homeland Security (2003–2005)

Now it’s woodland creatures—bluebird, deer, badger, wolf, grizzly—and some are already extinct. All the birds, all the spotted fawns, and everything too docile to register, gone. The forest is highly to severely dangerous, and we can only live in the trees for so long; we’ll have to come down eventually. We haven’t eaten in days. Below us, blackberry bushes and a cold stream for drinking even if the silver fish are gone. When the wolves become grizzlies, it’s time to get out of the woods. We can’t hide. The birches are lined with black eyes, watching. Bears circle below, waiting for us to fall like fruit. We try to keep still, but they hear us breathing. It’s so quiet without birds. Quiet as it is in a movie, right before something awful happens.




had no idea what to expect. The New Orleans airport was grimy and gritty, and the voice of Louis

Armstrong echoed in the terminal. The Gulf Coast had been plagued with hurricanes, land loss, and poverty, but it was sustained by the tenacity of the Cajun people. They stayed to rebuild their lives over and over again. Hurricane Katrina. Now Hurricane Rita. I came to volunteer, but I quickly learned my trip was about much more than fixing damaged houses. The assignments were small. At the beginning of the week, we formed groups based on the skills assessment each of us had completed before we arrived. I made the week-long trip with my dad, who happened to be the most diversely skilled person I’d ever known. We decided to grab one of the little projects and knock it out in the morning. The assignment was to install a ceiling fan. Piece of cake. Armed with an obscure array of donated second-hand tools and supplies, we made our way to Chauvin, along Bayou Terrebonne.



We pulled up to a small cul-de-sac in disarray. Amid heaps of rubbish, cats roamed freely through dilapidated shacks damaged by flooding. The family we were there to help had been transitioning from their FEMA trailer back to their recently “raised” house. Many jacked their homes up on pilings to raise them above the flood line. The practice seemed odd at first. Why didn’t they just move? We knocked. The door cracked open. A woman eyed us coldly. We introduced ourselves. She explained, in her thick Cajun accent, that her husband Steve would be right with us. A head shorter than his wife Michelle, Steve emerged, greeted us warmly, and invited us inside. The room where the fan was to be installed was going to be the new master bedroom. For the time being, it was where Steve kept his tools and supplies. He had been rebuilding the entire house since Hurricane Rita breached the levee a few blocks away. The storm surge had wiped out his neighborhood. As we all warmed up to each other, Steve revealed more about the flood and what he had








done to ensure that he and his family would be safe the next time it happened. Despite our arsenal of tools, the job took longer than expected. It was not a piece of cake. The “Cajun framing,” as a member of our group so eloquently put it, proved to be difficult, as no building codes were being enforced. One thing led to another, and we were cutting holes in the ceiling, “running Romex” (installing the wire that runs through the walls), and crawling around in the attic. All the while, Steve told stories. We stopped working to listen respectfully. He had a lot of stories to tell, and my dad and I were a sympathetic audience. Our pace slowed to a crawl, but we weren’t about to hurry a man telling us about the disaster that wiped out his whole neighborhood. We were there to work, but, more importantly, we were there to listen. We were there to give a damn. Michelle, so cold a few hours before, opened up. She appreciated her husband and how much potential he had. She was trying to get him to go to adult reading classes.


^0406 SPENCER DEW ^0406 [ESSAY]


went to Jerusalem as a writer, for the purpose of writing, to experience the climate of a place living

under the ubiquitous threat of unpredictable bombings, and to devote some serious, uncluttered time to my academic studies, which are extensions of the practice of writing. My personal reflections on the bombing of Hebrew University revolve around what might be considered writerly concerns, but these are concerns which provide an essential point of approach to this event in particular and, more broadly, to all instances of human suffering. The Hebrew Bible prohibits the creation and use of images. Over the centuries, the Rabbis have elaborated at length upon this prohibition, what it might mean, and why. One of the undergrads who lived across the hall from my dorm room, an Arab, Kefah by name, had, on his laptop, a Powerpoint slide presentation of photographs of corpses from Sabra and Shatilla, as well as a smaller slide show of a Palestinian of roughly college



age whose head had been split open by a large-caliber Israeli shell at some sort of public protest, close-up shots of the kid’s head, his eyes intact, and his face, but his forehead literally cracked down the middle, peeled to either side like a banana. It hits you in the gut to look at a picture like that. You look away, but then you look back, harder. You think, as you have to think in this day and age, that the images in front of you could be doctored, fake. But if they’re real, that’s worse, in a way, because while I can understand why Kefah would put together a series of pictures like that, and I can sympathize with his pain and rage and fear, and while he has, to an extent, a useful political tool, there’s this larger sense in which photographs of corpses cheapen their subjects, turn a human life into a cipher, slough away the humanity. If the things I write fiction about, lovers left behind, the way wind pushes the clouds, the sound of grease sizzling in a skillet far from home . . . . If these things are banal, then the picture of the guy’s skull split open is the opposite, sensational, something extraordinary, something outside the scope of our day to day existence. And as soon as this shift takes place, as soon as the dead or the wounded are placed outside of our everyday lives, are put over on some pedestal which is easier for us to look at, as soon as that happens, a crime has been committed against their lives and memories. What I do not want to happen to the people who died in that cafeteria, or those who were wounded, those who were maimed, even those who only poured down the stairs of the adjoining buildings and burst into shocked sobs—I do not want these people to appear as something less that what they are, as something less than fully human, demanding a response of identification and empathy. Thank God, college cafeterias are not bombed every day. And the media’s job is, probably, to sell this event on the basis of its out-of-the-ordinariness. If it happened every day, it wouldn’t be news, regardless of the level of human suffering involved.



February 2002


hen Sean and I arrived at Cindy and Addi’s apartment, Cindy had been busy boiling

sweet potatoes and sending mental telepathy to her husband, hoping he’d be home soon. Addi’s a mail carrier, and Saturdays in winter, even past Christmas, suck—lots of mail, long hours, cold, along with anthrax discoveries and other threats. And that winter, the insistent posturing for a war we didn’t want infiltrated everything. We handed over the wine we brought, and Cindy gave us a giant jar of muffuletta, a green olive and veggie concoction, straight from Central Grocery in New Orleans. They’d also caught a “mess” of fish while they were down south, too, and that’s why we were invited to dinner. To help them eat it. Sean teased Cindy about making us some tar-bottom chaos for dinner. “Ha ha, Sean,” she said to him, and then to me, “Get in this kitchen and help me. Addi’s not home yet,


^0406 ^0406



ow do you refer to yourself when you meet someone? You use your name, right? My name

is Ghazaleh. Do you know how to pronounce it? If I said it to you once, you’d probably ask, “Sorry, could you repeat that,” or you’d pronounce it the way you heard it and I’d correct you and explain where it comes from, what it means, and eventually you’d know my story. I’m twenty-one years old, born in Tehran, Iran; name comes from the root word gazelle in the Arabic; speak Farsi at home; lived in Iran for ten years; now live in Toronto, Canada. No, I haven’t been back (except for once, the first year after I left). Yes, it was wonderful. I loved my childhood. I don’t know what it’s like living there now. I do not have more knowledge on the latest media story because I am of Iranian descent. In fact, I probably have way less knowledge on political events because I do not watch television and my daily roundabouts don’t center around the headline news.



And please don’t ask me if I liked living there or here better after I tell you all this, because the question has no answer and you can figure it out yourself with what I just told you. I know about tradition; I know about culture; I know about values; I love where I come from and I love our people. There is nothing like being among your family in a gathering we call mehmooni (the closest translation is a “party,” but that doesn’t come nearly as close to explaining what a mehmooni is), which doesn’t happen anymore unless you are in Iran—since Iranian families are scattered now around the world. We have escaped our land moved by the forces of politics, government, and limited opportunities for living a bright future. I have memories of mehmoonis, memories of my family, and by family I don’t mean immediate family, I mean the circle of family: everyone from my mother’s grandparent’s siblings to my father’s cousin. Everyone knows each other; everyone is valued and respected; we are all related and our identity is strong because we are a big group. We don’t know each other personally, but we are family. Mehmoonis aren’t reunions in Iran. They are a part of weekly or monthly routine and somewhat of a commitment and form of respect for your family. One week you’re at uncle’s place with their big circle of people; another week, at grandparent’s orchard with our circle of family and friends. This is what I know of Iran. This is where I have lived and loved and still love about our people. Our mehmoonis consist of a lot of food, Irooni (our way of saying Iranian) dancing, kids playing around, sitting around saying nothing, or starting a conversation with people around you about some proper subject. Women tend to do more of that (gossip), eating fruits and ajil, drinking tea, eating lots of homemade food rich of herbs and spices. This is what I know of Iran. This is what I live. I live among family. I live among values, ideals, a way of being Iranian. I live among a strong, rich, ancient, beautiful culture that unites us and gives us the title Iranians or Persians—as we’d like to be known due to our ancient culture. And we love ourselves just as much as Greeks and Chinese and Italians and Russians love themselves. Nationalism creates






Birthday mehmooni. Photo (left), from left to right: Ghazaleh, Tara, Arghavan, Yassaman, Reza, Amir. Photo (right), from left to right: Ghazaleh, Arghavan, Alireza.

an identity, but now in a world of internationalization and with modern Western lifestyles influencing the new generation, we have expanded our potential and compete to “catch up” with whatever needs to be caught up with—whether it’s technology, democracy, human rights, economics, trade, education, or just being able to drink or even date someone outside of your own religion or heritage. That being said, I wanted to write about being an Iranian because of all the chaos happening now in my homeland. I realized that I have no knowledge on writing anything about living in Iran, being a woman in Iran, and experiencing daily life in Iran. I wish I knew. I could only wish, or. . . . I was trying to remember the cousins I have in Tehran right now who are about my age. My cousin Arghavan is one year older than me. We are distant cousins—she is my dad’s cousin’s daughter. We used to see each other at family mehmoonis. Her family was the first family out of our circle of families to come to Toronto for a little while. So, when we came to Canada in ’96, we were united once again for a very short period. Then they returned to Iran. So, Arghavan came to mind and this is where the story begins. Listen to our conversation and open your mind because this is about living in Iran: the land you didn’t know much about until you heard the phrase “nuclear weapons” in association with it on the news. _____


^0406 ^0406



olorado ranks near bottom of the states when it comes to higher-education funding. That’s one of

the reasons that I couldn’t make a living teaching at the local community college. I was a real bargain, an adjunct teaching four sections of English composition every semester for less than $16,000 a year. No benefits. No medical or dental or disability insurance. No sick days. Students nominated me for Teacher of the Year in 2006. That made me feel pretty good, but it didn’t pay the bills. In Colorado most college instructors are considered adjuncts, and that percentage keeps growing around the country. Last year one full-time teaching position in the English department was announced at my college, the largest community college in the state. It was the first full-time position open in five years. The posting was an internal announcement, but over 75 adjuncts applied, including me. The job went to a lovely woman, ten years younger, with a better publishing record than the rest of us. For her troubles




ave I been influenced by the Bush years? Yes, I think I have. I became paranoid. It started

creeping in when I realized that good vibes around me were disappearing at an alarming pace. I needed to find a culprit and attributed this disappearance to our misbehaving government. You see, a burden put upon us. We are forced to stop speaking liberally, without restraint. I became aware of this burden when I noticed that my friends and I started whispering our opinions about the state of things whenever we get together at our favorite coffee house. Our bold banter was replaced with a spineless murmur. It made our conversations stifled, disjointed. We started losing the thread of our thoughts. One day we stopped talking altogether and then one of those friends died, the other one decided to leave the country, and I was left alone at my table. I don’t mind staying home alone, but sharing a table with myself at the coffee house didn’t appeal to me, so I took to the streets. I am a graphic designer who happens to write stories and novels and likes taking pictures of the











we replace you with the letter u we substitute real emotions with emoticons and consider ourselves more connected than ever we have online chats instead of conversations and relationships are reduced to acronyms kids create MySpaces rather than exploring open spaces and we download and upload more often than we actually listen we generate 161 billion gigabytes of digital information in one year and don’t care if there is enough space to hold it all we shorten our attention spans with constant distractions and lengthen our lives with medical advances so we’ll all live longer but will we even take the time to notice? we are constantly connected ringing beeping buzzing blaring Razr Blackberry Bluetooth iPod Nano we instant message and blog and have screen names and urls


^0406 DERON BAUMAN ^0406 [NOTES]


bservation | The chick in the Dodge Ram commercial who punches her husband in the

stomach is the same woman who is in the American Express My Rewards commercial who gets herself a BMW for Christmas. Secret | If you want my best, ask for something I did for myself. Juice Fast | Wayne and Alisha are a couple days away from the end of a three-day juice fast. It’s sort of confusing because a three-day juice fast has two days before and two days after that you eat fruits and vegetables to ease you in and out of the fast. They seem to have really enjoyed it. A lot of people I’ve talked to have said it has increased their energy levels. Amy and I are going to try it next week, starting Wednesday and Thursday on the fruits and vegetables with the juice portion over Amy’s threeday weekend, then back to the fruits and vegetables. God Dammit | Why can’t the concept car be the production vehicle!?


^0406 ^0406


April 2002


’m thinking we shouldn’t start in February with me leveled and hyperventilating on the hardwood, with

you handing me a glass of water then taking it away because you knew it would make it worse if it were still three after you left. Save for the one about how I never really thought about you during sex, I didn’t have many good lines that day; my stage directions limited—she collapses to her knees and just keeps crumbling. Begin instead with our last time in the Village. Gauzy from pot delivered like pizza, your work buddy opened once-white curtains, put a too-friendly hand on my shoulder, said, “Look all the way to the Trade Center.” The weed and the electric echo of his skin on mine made it easier to fiddle with your zipper in the cab back uptown, to take you in my hand, pretend that all was right, and we would always be about building on what we’d already built.


^0406 ^0406



very sleeper in the city woke up that morning with a dead body chained to one leg. The links

were cold iron, and the cuffs around their ankles were heavy and dark and forged somehow without seams to show how they had been put on. The bodies made showering difficult, jogging impossible, and family dogs all over town snarled and sniffed at stiff strangers invading their floors. Bodies dragged through their morning as the city dragged through its own, overcrowding coffee counters and leaving bus riders hard-pressed for seats. Elevators stalled when somebody’s body wouldn’t squeeze through the doors and got hung up on the outside. Airplanes left passengers stranded because attendants were never sure how many live persons they had counted and how many passed on carryons. Pedestrians forgot they were walking for two and wondered why their legs were so tired, muscles cramped and backs aching after just a few steps.



^0406 JIM MCINVALE ^0406 [STORY]


ladimir scored again last night. That’s my pet name for my mole trap—Vladimir. Like his Tran-

sylvanian namesake, his enemies know him as “The Impaler.” I dug up the skewered little lawn terrorist and buried him deep in what I suspected was the main nest—you know, to send a message. I pictured a bearded patriarch mole hiding down there, deep in the tunnels and caves, masterminding the nightly raids. Sure, my tactics may seem a bit harsh, but like my president, I’m just taking the battle to them. Since the start of hostilities, Vladimir has been one of my only two successful weapons in the Mole Wars. My beagle Georgia was the other, and she scored quite a few, but then died a few years back. I don’t think the moles had anything to do with it, but you can never be sure. The conflict began in the spring of my first year in the Midwest. The subversive subterranean varmints tilled up my brand new lawn, leaving a grid of tunnels dotted with dirt mounds, and it’s been the same



Tuesday, March 20, 2007


uesday offers more hope than Monday. I awake well rested. Tyler, my cat, who I’m convinced has

recently joined Fight Club, didn’t bother me one bit. No late-night meowing. No licking my face. No biting my feet. I zip through my morning rituals, as does my wife Helena. We carpool to work, and the sun gleams in fantastic elation over the thriving San Francisco Bay. Summer’s coming soon. Day by day it gets closer and closer. I turn on the stereo as I drive her SUV, fiddling with the controls until I reach 810 AM. We listen to news radio; 810 AM is discussing Al Gore’s failure to submit documents that he’ll be addressing any minute now on Capitol Hill. After several requests by a committee, Gore has yet to produce the studies he’s planning on using to defend his arguments on global warming. Gore, after winning an Academy Award, has struck many Republicans and Democrats as being a

They say the law is kinder to celebrities. More likely the law is on its best behavior when it knows we’re watching. We should monitor the government as closely as the government monitors us. What should be televised is not Congress in session but Congress at home.


Politicians and lobbyists steal my money. So why do I only get angry at my neighbors?




There are some times When the accurate hitting Of the Whiteman’s target Of acceptability Becomes so onerous that One wishes instead to simply Pen a sonata Write a sonnet Develop a new time theorem Launch a Spacelab Erode a Grand Canyon Create a Universe Or anything that might For once and For all Establish Our equality Before the rising waters of fate In a system predicated upon Our helplessness Our fecklessness Our inability to care even for Our own Or anything else Our open invitations For hurricanes to wreck our lives And prove the already always Whiteman Doctrine Of our inferiority.




y son asked me to tape his hands and feet. I wrapped them in Scotch, and he slept at the

foot of my bed, curled up, a large pet. Since his father left, he has come to my bed. It might set a pattern. I don’t know. I woke to hear him creeping, creeping, trying to scale the walls. He was crying. I said, “Do you miss Daddy?” He said, “Mom, it didn’t work. We need stronger tape.” _____ We rent a peeling white cottage, for eight hundred and fifty dollars a month. My husband pointed to the dark smudges over the light switches, the chimney with no flue. Students lived here, before we did. They painted ceilings lemon yellow, walls peach and fuschia and rainy-day blue. The bathtub has feet. We came here a year ago. I was hopeful. For months, we’d been seeing my husband off on the Super Shuttle for interview after interview. We bought a suit for him at a resale shop, had it tailored. He looked right in that suit. He’d grown more


^0406 SSG. STEWART W. BONER ^0406 [LOG]


his is my diary from 9/11/01 through 10 May 2005. Two combat tours in Iraq. The first with

Hco 121 Airborne Infantry, the second with Fco 425 Airborne Infantry. Awards included: Joint Services Commendation Medal W/“V” device, Joint Services Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal with 3 stars, Combat Infantryman Badge. November 7, 2003 My first drill back with the unit and we are on our way to Camp Grayling. My understanding is that I will have nothing to do all weekend, as the unit is going through SRP (Soldier Readiness Plan). I already have all my paperwork in order, which was taken care of in March of this year, just before I went to Iraq. I feel bad for the guys that haven’t got their shot records. Thirteen shots in the same arm all because I didn’t have my record. You better believe that I have it now.




ave you eaten?” “I’ve eaten.” I haven’t eaten.

My best friend has become my mother. She places

a halved hard-boiled before me, raises an invisible fork to her lips, shows me how it’s done. Touched, I nod. But also feel a kinship with the cracked shell as she palms it into the sink, rinses its clinging. “You’re not eating.” “I am.” “Don’t lie.” “I’m broken.” He used to take me riding. Our horses’ backs beneath our thighs, we peaked those mountains like snow, and loved like I was paper cone and he was syrup, iced. “It’s like he’s dead and I’m in mourning.” “Please,” she says. “Eat.” I will, I think, but can’t.

The past cannot teach you how to choose, only to be sorry at how you’ve chosen.


We should no longer need to need. We should only want. To need is to suffer an absence in one’s environment. To want is to express the presence of oneself.





n her thirties, she spoke in tongues, her mind splintering, and it wasn’t spiritual. She lay awake

at night and felt hot even when the air was on. She pulled one naked leg outside of the covers and placed it—clamped it really—on top of the other, so it looked like she was enjoying her comforter in a way she shouldn’t, which she had seen dogs or young children do to towels or blankets or comforters. She was going crazy or her true self was going somewhere (who knew where), and she was turning into a humping zombie who said things no one understood. She said things like, “It looks like some sort of communicae,” which was a line from The Simpsons, said by Mr. Burns after opening a fortune cookie. She said other lines from The Simpsons—“Valencia! These are juice oranges”—or lines from movies she did or didn’t know—“She’s sweet, but she’s fucked up”—or lines from rap songs—“Bitch, you heard Maury, I ain’t buyin’ no car seat”—and she did so in a voice not entirely her own, but in the kind of declarative, vacant voice of God as portrayed in film.



How can you express the experience When the vocabulary has not yet been created? How can you seek out treatment When the doctors almost always get it wrong? How can you seek empathy When your peers cannot freely step forward? How can you not be angry For all the time and space that was lost? How can you keep the faith That one day, the walls will go away? You must keep pushing for answers. You must seek out people who know and understand. You must believe That one day doctors (or others) will help provide you with answers, That treatment and diagnoses will be faster and more accurate That others will suffer less That success stories will be the norm, that life will prevail over death, And that education can replace misconception. You must know that society will learn and recognize that Bipolar Disorder and other “mental illnesses� are truly Physical illnesses and can and should be treated that way.


^0406 AMY GUTH ^0406 [ESSAY]


can’t say when the transformation took place or when it started or even that a transformation

took place at all. Even the word transformation is a bit much, although my mother of my youth seems to have changed significantly into the woman she is now. She is not an excitable person. She eschews bragging. She is unfazed by the enthusiasm of others. She is fixed in her measured expectations. At its best, this temperament is old-world steadiness, a lost art of devotion to essential things. At worst, it is apathy. In fourth grade, my mother woke me early one morning. We packed a bag of snacks and a thermos of water and got in her car. I pressed my fingernails into the burgundy velour car-seat upholstery and tried to make myself more alert. I was old enough, my mother reasoned, to understand the bones of Roe v. Wade, and old enough to be part of something to which it was connected. As we eased out of the driveway, I felt excited to see my mother passionate about something, about something beyond the domestically practical. “Okay,” she



October 9, 2003 Board of Commissioners Office County Administration Building Grand Rapids, MI RE: AN OPEN LETTER TO HAROLD VOORHEES AND THE OTHER BOARD MEMBERS OF THE KENT COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS Dear Commissioner Voorhees:


’m not sure if you will remember me, but it has been my pleasure and honor to work with you in

the past. I am a customer-service manager for a local utility, and our company has sponsored and supported you frequently over your long and diversified career. This was how I came to make your acquaintance, and I quickly became an admirer of your dedication to public service as well as your joyful, warming smile and wonderful presence.

Surrounded by peers or superiors, I feel like every time I speak I reveal a weakness—that I don’t believe what I say unless others agree to believe it; that I don’t know myself unless others pretend to know me; and that I need to be known in this shallow way. In contrast, silence is strength. Silence reflects the fears of others back at them; they fear I know everything they know, and more. Silence allows me to appear to my enemies as the embodiment of their own fears. My silence reveals their weakness. To them, I am the unknown, and to myself, I am nothing.





t breakfast, my father put down the paper. “Let me guess, too nervous to eat.”

Before I could get out a word, he sighed and left the table. Mom and I sat for a few minutes, spooning at our cereal. When I stood up, she put her hand on mine. “He just has a funny way of showing how sad you make him.” Today is the first day of school. I made it to tenth grade. Good news, except research shows that if I was meant to grow out of my stutter I’d have done so by now. Great, I think Becky is in my first-period class. That won’t be awkward. Yesterday, she asked what time it was. I shrugged and fled inside with the mail. A moment later I glanced out the window as she walked to her house, shoulders slumped, the mail clutched against her slim waist.


^0406 DAVE HOUSLEY ^0406 [STORY]


he celebrity answers the door herself. “Fucking publicist is making a Starbucks run,” she says.

She strides into the darkness of the suite. There is an insouciance to her walk, the careless authority of an alpha hyena. The interviewer pauses. This room costs more per night than six months of payments on the Honda. He sucks a breath and follows the celebrity’s skinny ass down the hallway, past piles of clothes, unopened packages, empty bottles, and full ashtrays. The celebrity sinks into a couch. She opens a bottle of water, reads a message on her phone. “So?” she says. The interviewer has been given very strict guidelines. He is to focus on the album. He is not to discuss the sex tape, the issue of panties and proper technique for exiting an automobile, the failed TV pilot, or “the thing with Britney.” The interviewer is from a small arts magazine, not necessarily obscure, but not the kind of gig that typically sends him into the mauve cocoon of the Chateau Marmont. “So?” the celebrity says again. “Are you going to fucking start asking questions or what?” She is tiny,


^0406 KEVIN R. FREE ^0406


David: Do you remember a moment in your childhood when you were stifling your desire to act, for whatever reason? Kevin: NEVER. When I was a kid, I was convinced that I should be the newest cute kid on Diff’rent Strokes. Now I should be on Ugly Betty. David: Did you put on shows for your family? Kevin: No. I WAS a show. Before my mother died, my favorite birthday party was when I ordered my brothers and my parents to sing “Happy Birthday” as I walked down the hall to my cake and candles. David: You didn’t want an audience. You wanted subjects. Did you wear a crown and a robe? Kevin: No, but my stepmother called me “Hef” because I liked to walk around in my bathrobe all the time.




olding his breath now in the damp single room of a side-street hotel only a hundred yards or so

from the mortar fire, he locked himself in concentration. His mind on single track, focused, sidelining the blasts outside as he sat poised, holding the bartered scalpel blade over the steam of a kettle boiling over. Ready now. Trembling slightly. His nerves, his fingers like fuses ready to trip, poised to any sudden movement, ready to pull back from any sudden sound. In a dimly lit room without heating, in one of the few buildings left standing, he folded himself up under the bare 40-watt lamp, leaning over the small token table, and with the small sterile blade, he carefully cut her out of the last photograph. With a little glue and a sterile pair of tweezers, he teased her sun-drenched image in amongst the others. Delicately positioning her into the final space right on the edge of the frame as a blast rocked the sidewall, another claiming the street below. Lamps shaking, cries heard, plaster cracking, and dust everywhere. Each flake spinning in the half-light like childhood


^0406 ^0406


J E S U S I S L O R D. W I R E L E S S I N T E R N E T. F R E E C O N T I N E N TA L B R E A K FA ST. —Motel sign just outside of Roswell, New Mexico

1. American


very morning I pay for the sins of overexposure: bits of bad movie dialogue, headlines that my

sleepy mind has scrambled and reprocessed into gibberish, advertising jingles, email subjects that make no sense, sparkle-eyed CNN anchors with flipped hairdos and exotic cheekbones. Every morning I stand at the sink and my mind is so fuzzed over I can’t find my voice, my internal monologue. I once nearly brushed my teeth with a razor. I stood before the mirror, gripping the sides of the sink in a rather dramatic way, blinking hard. I am twenty-nine years old. I am a designer. I am a teacher. Then I said this: “I am an American.” There was the warm flush of embarrassment, the reddish tingling of some humiliation or slight. I felt the apprehension and self-loathing that came with knowing that I was sheltered, a sense of being fattened up to be set loose among the hunters, the


^0406 LEE KLEIN ^0406 [STORY]


was a founding member of a conceptual rock band called The Helium Road. Our self-produced,

self-titled disc featured twenty-three acts of recorded violence, wherein we’d banged and smashed and shattered whatever we had at hand, recording the moment of silence before impact, the moment of impact, and the silence that followed. We then loaded these raw sounds on a computer and digitally stretched each recording to three minutes exact. This technique provided unexpected theme and variation, peaks and troughs, ebbs and flows; sounds so complicated, so surprisingly intricate, after repeated listens we walked the clattering, clunking city overawed by the untapped stock of symphonies concealed within impacts all around. Imagine our delight when two taxis collided not ten feet from us. Our first impulse was to record every sound—a white rose petal dropped into a glass of chilled Chardonnay—to see what we might hear within it. But therein lay madness, considering the infinite number of sounds and the distances we could stretch




hen the war started, I was eating Jell-O. I’m not particularly fond of Jell-O, but then I

hadn’t graduated yet: I wasn’t ready for solid foods. And this Jell-O wasn’t even Jell-O, but “a gel-type dessert” called Gel-Treat manufactured in Hicksville, New York. It came on a tray on my twenty-third birthday with a low-on-ink printout that said, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY KELLEY, HEATHER.” The fact it was green made it even worse. My dad offered to put a candle in it, and I burst into tears. I was supposed to go to Taiwan. I was in a play; I had the Lonely Planet guide. The play was a movement-theater version of Beauty and the Beast for children, featuring puppets and magic tricks. I had already done it for a month at Christmas, working at Bath & Body Works during the day. It was my first acting job out of conservatory. They were paying my airfare, and I wanted to go to a park I’d heard about and walk on hot coals. But instead I was in the hospital. I’d been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is a


^0406 MIKE INGRAM ^0406 [STORY]


his was all because of a girl I met on a sixth-floor fire escape during a particularly tedious East

Village party. I was smoking a cigarette and dreaming up excuses to leave early. “Doesn’t it sound completely majestic?” she said. “I mean doesn’t it?” Her name was Chelcie. She had these Kewpie-doll eyes I found a little distressing, and hair dyed electric pink. Actually I liked the hair. “So,” I said. “I’ll probably need overalls, right? Maybe a tractor?” I didn’t see any harm in playing along. Chelcie frowned at me. “Do you think this is some kind of a joke?” she said. “Of course not,” I said. “Iowa. Totally. Let’s do it.” I wanted nothing more at that moment than the inside of my cramped apartment, many subway stops away. Lately I’d taken to shutting off the lights, burying myself under the covers and watching old sitcom reruns through rabbit-ear fuzz, shows I hadn’t even liked the first time around: Wings, Roseanne, A Different World.


^0406 JOSH OLSEN ^0406 [POETRY]

1. THE WRESTLER I could have been a contender.... Because the program didn’t offer an affordable comprehensive insurance plan, my stepdad pulled me from wrestling the third week of practice, locking my fantasy in a sleeperhold. But, in my dreams, I conditioned my body and mastered signature moves: the crippling reverse-suplex, the bowel-shattering powerslam, the fatal DDT. I greased up and slid on my luchadore mask, spent my best years wrestling the county fair circuit, dropped flying elbows into unconscious opponents, entertained herds of screaming spectators massed around illegal backyard free-for-alls and tractor pull side stages. I made it into the pros and nearly lost my knee to an illegal leglock, but in an amphitheatre-pleasing turn of events, regained footing and executed a 360 degree piledriver— stealing the gold belt from the reigning heavyweight champ, El Padre Gordo,


^0406 JOHN H. MATTHEWS ^0406 [STORY]


he government can’t kill me. At first this was a purely bureaucratic problem—

appeals, paperwork and general ineptness. Now, ten years of incarceration later, to the prosecutor’s dismay, this has become a physical problem. In the state of Texas, lethal injection is the way they kill death-row inmates, guilty or (often enough) not guilty. They place you on a gurney, strap you down, and give you an opportunity to say a few words (I always say, “Hello”). Then, at the Warden’s signal, a curtain is raised so the witnesses can see. A few solutions are released into the IV drips. One is potassium chloride, which is to stop the heart. This is the part of the show where the inmate is supposed to die so the crowd can go home satisfied. The problem with this method is that it fails to work. It fails to work three times. Dismayed, enraged, embarrassed, exhausted, the killers finally gave up, stating that there must be something wrong with the chemicals being administered.



If you don’t please your parents you will be abandoned. If you do not have the right shape, or healthy shiny hair you will not find love. If you do not prepare the right meals your family will slowly reject you. If you do not take the right medicines you will live a life not much better than death. If you do not drive a large enough car your family will perish in the horrible accident that will most surely occur. If you allow two people of the same gender to be married in your community, your children, (most certainly their children) will end up gay and miserable, and God (your God, the One God) will be furious.



Three Days in November, 2004: E-mails from Minnesota to Diana in Mexico City Wednesday, November 3, 2004


t least Minnesota went for John Kerry. And the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party (our version of

the Democrats) took back the state House, despite Tim Pawlenty, our jackboot but oh-so-photogenic Republican governor. Timmy was a nice, moderate Republican Catholic back when we were in law school together in the Reagan years, but now he’s a bornagain evangelical, the better to rise to national office. Thursday, November 4, 2004 LeRoy and I went out last night with fellow travelers to have dinner and commiserate. Laughed and cried. Cathartic, but now what? As an attorney, my biggest worry is the Supreme Court. Of course, with total control of Congress, Bush has no more scapegoats. Maybe people will wake up, as they did in Minnesota after Paul Wellstone’s plane fell—or was pushed—out of the sky two years ago; and Norm Coleman, Dubya’s favorite court jester, took the Senate race.

The Constitution only applies to people we like, and we don’t even like our children.


Passing a beggar, I have to believe he’s the responsibility of some bastard richer than me.


Even ideas have a lifespan. Some are born in books, and some die there. Some are born in Constitutions and live out their days in an Amendment as if abandoned in a nursing home.



^0406 ^0406



never met David Foster Wallace (1962–2008). Nor was I one of his cult, the folks who read every word

of his sprawling, 1088-page novel Infinite Jest (1996), including the footnotes. I was more like a spotty but ardent admirer, who looked to his short stories and especially his essays for inspiration. It goes without saying that his death, at age fortysix, was a crushing loss.† But it’s worth articulating precisely what made Foster Wallace important. And by important, I don’t mean in the cultural or even canonical sense. His importance was essentially moral. Foster Wallace wrote, with agonizing beauty, about what Faulkner called “the old verities and truths of the heart”—love and hatred and pity and pride. But he also sought to make sense of the peculiar chaos of our time. In his reeling and exquisitely controlled sentences one finds an almost eerie transcription of modern consciousness: its coy multiplicity, its fragmentation, its blizzard of marketing messages

† On Friday, September 12, 2008, David Foster Wallace committed suicide. He hung himself in the basement of his California home. He was the author of two novels, three fiction collections, and three works of nonfiction.


^0406 PAUL A. TOTH ^0406 [ESSAY]


his is the story of a man whose son, Ian, ended up in a war partly because of his dad’s failures.

It’s the story of that father’s learning how he cannot separate rage against the war from anger at himself. And it’s the story of two men, father and son, who learned that through environment, genetics or both, they’ve more in common than the past suggested possible. _____ I knew my son was going to the war long before he left. I found myself listening again and again to Bob Dylan’s Not Dark Yet, an essential but failed exorcism of the gut-sucking storm within me: I was born here and I’ll die here against my will. I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still. Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb. I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from.


^0406 ^0406


“Take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.” —President George W. Bush, West Point commencement address, 1 June 2002


n 2004 I spent time in Madrid. The city was tending to the wounds left by the March 11 train bombings.

I happened by one of the subway stops hit by the attack. It was marked with caution tape, still closed. I peered down from the street and saw cement steps turned to rubble, exposed rebar, and scarred metal. I was uncomfortable in the city at that time. I didn’t think I stood out, but strangers constantly eyeballed me and looked me up and down. I was later told that Americans were easily spotted; our shoes never failed to give us away. But I also found that the Spanish were a warm people. They welcomed me open-armed after the briefest of introductions, no matter how wary they seemed at first. As soon as we exchanged names, people asked me who I was voting for. One man even stopped me on the street. “Americano?” he asked. “Si.” “Usted vota por?” “No Bush,” I said, and the man smiled. He waved me into a bar, an Irish pub called Finbar’s, and bought


^0406 LITTLE SHIVA ^0406 [LOG]


uly 2006: Living in Charlotte, NC, with grandma and Someone Else, I get hit by lightning in the form

of an email from Belgium. August 2006: Fall in love with Thierry Tillier (aka TX), the sender of the email, but go to Burning Man for the fifth time with Someone Else because we already have tickets. Spend a week on the playa bumming computer time under the big antenna to send love letters to Belgium. September 2006: Tell Someone Else (to whom I’m married at the time) that I have to go to Belgium. Have no passport, get one quick, go to Belgium. October 2006: Lock myself in a Brussels hotel room with TX for a week, fly back to Charlotte, tell Someone Else I need a divorce, then fly back to Belgium. November 2006: Meet my future in-laws, get to know Charleroi. Yes, Belgium.


^0406 ^0406



^0406 ^0406



avid Barringer is the author of the books of design criticism There’s Nothing Funny about Design (2009) and American Mutt

Barks in the Yard (2005), the novels American Home Life (2007) and Johnny Red (2005), and the special projects the Dead Bug Funeral Kit (2005) and the Writer’s Specimen (2003). He has written for Emigre, I.D., AIGA’s Voice, Eye, New York Times Book Review, Playboy, Details, Nerve, Mademoiselle, The American Prospect, Men’s Fitness, ABA Journal, Detroit Free Press, Quick Fiction, Failbetter, Epoch, and many others. He is the graphic designer and senior editor at Opium Magazine. His fiction has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes and the StorySouth Million Writers Award. He is the winner of the 2008 Winterhouse Award for Design Writing & Criticism.

Contact: David Barringer Elope Press 704-235-8371







Steve Almond

(Not That You Asked) Candyfreak

David Barringer

American Home Life There’s Nothing Funny about Design

Deron Bauman


Jaime Campbell

Nick Cottrell

Patricia Cumbie

Where People Like Us Live

Spencer Dew

Songs of Insurgency

Ghazaleh Etezal

Kevin R. Free

Molly Gaudry

Shari Goldhagen

Family & Other Accidents

Amy Guth

Three Fallen Women

David Habben

Steve Himmer

Dave Housley

Ryan Seacrest is Famous

Mike Ingram







Heather Kelley

The Shape of the Break

Lee Klein

Incidents of Egotourism in the Temporary World

Little Shiva

Dave Morrison

Hideaway Camaro

Jennifer Prado

Latina in Wonderland

James A. Reeves

Tony R. Rodriguez

Simplicity Regurgitated Rapid Eye Metaphors The Disappearance and the Slow Awakening

Claudia Smith

The Sky is a Well

Maggie Smith

Lamp of the Body Nesting Dolls

Felix Sockwell

Paul A. Toth

Finale Fishnet Fizz

Faruk Ulay

Beneath the Shadow of Perpetual Defeat

Timmy Waldron

World Takes

Blythe Winslow

GOOD LUCK ^0406 TO YOU ^0406

THE NEXT COUPLE YEARS. ^0406 2009–2012 ^0406



Joshua Gross Catherine Price Maggie Smith Nick Cottrell Spencer Dew Grant Perry Ghazaleh Etezal Alison Morse Maggie Shearon Jennifer Prado Faruk Ulay Kristina Moriconi Deron Bauman Jim McInvale Shari Goldhagen Steve Himmer Tony R. Rodriguez Diane Gifford-Gonzalez Claudia Smith Patricia Cumbie SSG. Stewart W. Boner Molly Gaudry

Blythe Winslow Anjali Budhiraja Amy Guth Kurt Carlson David Erlewine Dave Housley Kevin R. Free Jaime Campbell James A. Reeves Lee Klein Heather Kelley Mike Ingram Josh Olsen John H. Matthews Dave Morrison Carla Hagen Steve Almond Paul A. Toth Timmy Waldron Little Shiva Felix Sockwell David Habben

^0406 US $20.00 ISBN-13: 978-0-977-81518-8


What Happened to Us These Last Couple Years?  

A stunning and original record of contemporary American life, this anthology contains essays, memoirs, letters, stories, poems, photographs,...

What Happened to Us These Last Couple Years?  

A stunning and original record of contemporary American life, this anthology contains essays, memoirs, letters, stories, poems, photographs,...