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joshmag
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

i can say these things because i love you

for those keeping track (and god knows i do) it's been seven years since i heard from my dad. i still remember the last phone call. it was a collect call from waco. he was in a bus station and he needed me to wire him money to get to san francisco. he'd left austin the day before and i already gave him $150.

"what happened to the money i gave you?" i said.

"aww, son," he let off with his embarrassed laugh. it's a laugh i can still mimic; a sad, exasperated cough. i feel something akin to heartburn when i hear it. my throat gets tight and i want to scrape out the insides of my stomach. he sounds both old and young when he laughs that way. old because it supposes a wisdom that he's surely earned through a life full of harder knocks than most have seen. how can i explain this bucket of tears, he might say instead. but young because, at heart, it's a child's plaintive cry. i messed up, he seems to want to say. i messed up. are you going to make me say it? i was going to make him say it.

"what happened to the money?" i said.

"i spent it," he said. "josh, i need money to get to san francisco." he needed money to get to san francisco because, essentially, my dad didn't want to work. it's not that he's lazy in the ordinary sense. it's that he can't stand working for somebody else and all his old dreams have given way to tired ideas. he had gotten to the point where he was travelling around the country on greyhounds, relying on the kindness of strangers and welfare when he could. in short, he was homeless. and he came to austin that last time to borrow money from me. he spent the night with us. thomas was just a baby at the time. i was working for the city. when we got up the next morning, i took him by the bank, withdrew $150 (everything in my checking at the time) and dropped him back off at the greyhound bus stop near highland mall. he was calling me from the waco bus station because he'd spent that money.

"please josh," he said.

to back up even further let me give you the short burst of memories which credited and debited my dad's account in these few precious seconds of collect call air. specifically, i remembered:

- my mom turning around in the green 1979 plymouth to me in the backseat and telling me "you don't understand what your father does for you." this was in reference to the fact that i had loudly complained about a halloween party which he had gone through much effort to organize as leader of Easthaven Baptist's Royal Ambassadors. in particular i was upset about the bobbing for apples since i didn't get an apple.

- my dad driving me to the emergency room when jeff mursky jammed a no. 2 pencil into my hand.

- my dad taking me with him to visit his mistress when i was ten years old.

- my dad buying me a stretch armstrong doll after one trip to said mistress. he worked at a mattress factory and i played with the doll in his smokey office.

- my dad and i riding down the dunes in white sands new mexico.

- my dad catching his back on fire while burning leaves. my mom screaming out, "drop and roll! drop and roll!"

- my parents sitting me down when i was seventeen and telling me they'd spent my entire college savings that my grandparents had given to me every year since i was a baby.

- my mom telling me my dad was married to a woman before her and they had a daughter. she was probably a few years older than me. i was eighteen.

- my dad too embarrassed to come to our wedding. he didn't want to see my mom and her new husband.

- my dad asking for money when we lived in galveston. he lived with a woman in a beachhouse near the big bridge. i think she loved him, but one day he came to visit me at work. he'd packed up his car and was heading out. "where you going?" i asked him after we walked to the atm and i shook his hand. "somewhere else," he said, with that same sad laugh.

i'm sure other things went through my head. it's weird when these moments strike. they are really life or death moments. everything after this, you think, will be different. move slowly. i was holding the phone close to my mouth.

"no," i said. "i can't."

"how much can you spare?" he said.

"nothing."

"ok," and then click. seven years. i imagined him dead or living in a doorway. i imagined him still in waco. in arizona. in san francisco. back here in austin. i went through periods of paralyzing guilt. surely you could've given the man who raised you something? all i can say is that i gave him everything i could. still (see?) i have to answer these demons. i was young. with a family. i tried to help him, but he didn't want help. i tried to love him, but he didn't want love. so that was it. i was his only son, but that was it. i can't begin to tell you how this feels. and then lonanne's dad died. that nearly wrecked us. it really did. perhaps that story some other time and only for those of you who really give a shit. and then my mother died. so, there you go. no parents except for shirley. no grandparents except for shirley. and we cling to each other now like "ok god, that's all...no more, that's it."

why am i telling you all this? who gives a fuck, josh. get on with your happy/pappy links and posts about thomas and william. or your rants. get on your rant horse about music or retarded fucking george lucas or literature. write a poem. write a story.

i'm saying all this because three weeks ago my dad called me.

posted at 9:10 PM | link | (752) comments


Thursday, May 19, 2005

watch out lucas

and now i give you...Fire, a claymation movie by thomas (and a few of his classmates, but we all know who the real auteur is). think of it as an anti-instructional video. thomas plays the part of the boy. also note the cat he mentions by name.

posted at 9:46 PM | link | (712) comments


Sunday, May 15, 2005

summer reading list

(this isn't a vanity list. i don't mean to impress anyone with what i'm reading or why i'm reading it. maybe it's even good for a few laughs. i always get a few people who ask me this, though. what books do you recommend? and i'm at a loss at the time they ask me. i've got about ten books on my nightstand and three books in the bathroom and a couple of books at work and a bunch more books i ordered or heard were good. i usually default to anything by alice munro or barry hannah or walker percy since i don't think you can go wrong with those writers. but, otherwise, it's a minefield. i've read my fair share of horrible books by great writers. i've been disappointed by people i was meant to like, hell, love. and then there are books i buy and never read for one reason or another. larry mcmurtry is one of those writers whose books i can't ever seem to pick up. i'm sure i'd love Lonesome Dove or Horseman, Pass By, but in both cases i've seen those films and i can't get them out of my mind. "i know what happens," i feel like saying. of course, i knew humbert humbert was going to sleep with lolita and i still managed to be surprised by nabokov at every turn. i'm not sure why i don't think i'll like something. i don't think i'd like jeffrey eugenides much, but people tell me i should check him out. i don't think rick moody would be interesting, but maybe that's b/c dale peck eviscerated him a few years back and i kind of agree with some of what peck said about post-modern fiction in general and the opening paragraph of The Black Veil in particular. at any rate, here's my list. much like the summer challengeTM, it's probably more than i can chew. i'll try to update it at the end of the summer to show what i actually read).


  • Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine : Stories by Thom Jones (i loved The Pugilist at Rest)
  • The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch (Five Feet Under before Five Feet Under)
  • Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill (Richard Ford recommended this)
  • Reasons to Live : Stories by Amy Hempel (Chuck Palahniuk's favorite author)
  • Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk (I've only read Fight Club, but I liked it so much I figure I should pick up his latest)
  • The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell (NPR humorist, hilarious if you've ever seen her on Letterman)
  • Kiss Me, Judas by Will Christopher Baer (this is my one mystery pick...Amazon keeps recommending this guy to me based on my selections...could be a dud)
  • Stranger Than Fiction : True Stories by Chuck Palahniuk
  • Ray by Barry Hannah (this goes in the "I can't believe he hasn't read that" category)
  • Advertisements for Myself by Norman Mailer (supposedly this is Mailer at his egomaniacal best)
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami (got this from Katya and keep meaning to read it)
  • The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro (Royal Beatings is in this collection...one of my favorites by Munro along with Miles City, Montana)
  • Gritos by Dagoberto Gilb (he'll be one of my profs in the fall so I should probably read something he's written)
  • The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (I'm basically ripping him off at this point)
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (Kyle said he'd loan me this one)


posted at 7:45 PM | link | (1449) comments



what you don't know about people is always the same

heartfelt and surprisingly fragile dave chappelle on why he recently walked off his third season of chappelle's show and landed in south africa.

posted at 9:47 AM | link | (1) comments


Thursday, May 12, 2005

dale peck: 1. star wars: still zero. (esp. like the bit about the misquoted line and its analysis)

posted at 7:40 PM | link | (73) comments


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

excerpt from latest story.

nathan has accepted my summer challengeTM of three stories by the end of summer. consider the gauntlet thrown down!

posted at 11:00 PM | link | (809) comments



finally, i can understand all those squiggly marks on my stories. stet.

posted at 9:27 PM | link | (0) comments



via kevin: the found footage festival

i say we all pitch in for a private showing at the alamo.

posted at 8:51 PM | link | (0) comments


Sunday, May 08, 2005

way to go, dipshits

posted at 6:22 PM | link | (1225) comments






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