All the Hate Mail!

THE THOUGHT ORPHANAGE!
- an elan gale nightmare - a blog - a disease - a problem - a dog without a home

Everything Happens For A Reason

I remember the day that I found out that everything happened for a reason.

It was 2pm and I was still in bed. My head was aching and my body had wine stains on it. 

At the foot of my bed there were three dogs I did not know. All of them were named Stanley. They had bandanas around their necks that I assumed could be used to tell them apart, but they were all the same bandana. Three little cocker spaniels, all of them named Stanley and all of them with matching bright red bandanas.

I decided to get some water and as I walked through the living room, all of my belongings has been replaced by piles of black ash. I tried to sit down on a chair I once had but I just fell right through to the floor, coughing and choking as the fire remnants filled my lungs.

Stanley laughed. Well, all the Stanleys laughed. They were having a damn ball over there, just laughing and showing their teeth and lamenting their very existence but using humor as an escape.

The water pitcher was no longer in the refrigerator because the refrigerator was just a pile of ash decorated with fancy ice trays that had survived the apparent blaze.

The smoke alarms, hysterically, were also ash piles. Totally hilarious.

I took a drink from the faucet and felt instantly better. One of the Stanleys licked the caked Syrah from my ankle. I wondered if he or she would be okay but then I remembered that sometimes I did that and I seemed fine.

A seven year old boy emerged from the bathroom and asked me what his name was. I confidently told him it was probably Stanley. He smiled and leapt through the kitchen window. It was impressive. 

I crawled back into bed and wondered what I had done wrong the night before. But then I realized that everything happens for a reason. I closed my eyes and told myself that everything was going to be alright. 

The Stanleys, minus the window-leaping child, circled my quiet body and I kissed the back of my own hand, practicing for a time when I would marry my wife in front of a congregation of friends, obligations, and annoying family members.

All is well, I thought, as I descended back into sleep, waiting for the surprises that tomorrow would bring. 

Ode To A Friend

When my friend died, I really thought about all the things I took for granted. Those phone calls that meant nothing. The text messages that all mirrored the others. The pleasantries.

When she was gone, all the things that meant nothing suddenly meant everything. It was never hard for me to make her smile, but I couldn’t do it anymore. It was never hard for me to make her laugh, but my jokes now would fall quietly to the ground. It was never hard to comfort her when she felt overwhelmed, but now I was silent.

I cried a lot. 

My friend was quiet. 

She told me I was going to be okay. She told me to cheer up. She gave me a reason to. 

I found myself wanting all the things for myself that I wanted for her. I wanted her quiet. I wanted to hear that silence again. I wanted it to be temporary. I wanted our pauses to mean something, but now they last forever. 

They still mean something. They mean a lot to me. I remember the last time we ran out of things to say. I’ll never regret telling her I loved her.

I remember where I was standing. 

Sometimes I drive past my old house, just to put a place to that moment. I pull to the side of the road and I think about the moments that mattered to me and I hear her laugh and I look for spiders, the spiders she was so scared of. 

But there never are any spiders. Maybe that means there is nothing left to fear. 

I close my eyes and I tell her that there are no spiders here. She smiles, in my mind, and in my mind she thanks me for checking.

And then we just stand there together, in a spiderless world, knowing that everything will be okay, because there is nothing left that can harm her. 

This Day

This day is not important to me. This is just another day.

But like every day, it’s going to be exactly what you make it.

Make this one whatever you want. Make the next one whatever you want. If it takes a ball dropping to make you change the things you don’t like, that’s great. Some people need the loss of love. Some people need to experience mortality. Some people need to feel the detrimental effect of their actions. Good for them too.

But here we are, passively watching a ball drop and watching numbers shrink to endless zeros and if that’s all it takes to look at yourself in the mirror and say “NOW,” then now is our time, and we are lucky for it.

Love so hard. Hate with passion. Hug tightly. Kiss until you can’t breathe. Mean it when you say goodbye but mean it even more when you say hello.

I’m not going to pretend 2014 is going to be great, but I know it’s going to happen, so I greatly recommend making it great.

It’s up to me. It’s up to you.

Shake your life until it looks like something you love.

Shake it until the leaves you hate fall from the branches.

Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

I enjoy my life!

I enjoy my life!

My Sappy Love Note To You

Hello, my friends:

It’s been a very interesting year, to say the least. Today marks the two year anniversary of “All The Hate Mail!”

I started this blog, primarily, as a way to not bother everyone with thoughts and ideas I didn’t want to tweet. I’m not a blogger. I’m just a guy with a blog.

Things changed for me a bit this year with the creation of Diane in 7A. Those of you who have followed me for a while were not surprised, having lived through “Revenge On My Neighbors” and “My Blind Date,” but many people were shocked and alarmed and confused and cried endlessly into their porridge.

Let us raise a glass to them. They will be fine in 2014. 

Those of you who know me best know I’m actually a pretty solitary guy. I live alone and I live alone in my head. Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and the like have offered me a really cool way to interact with the world, and I’ve been lucky enough to have people read the things I say.

I know I come off as cavalier, cocky, sad, pompous, angry, bitter, and a lot of other great qualities, but let me say this: I am probably all those things, along with lonely, shy, and imperfect in just about every way.

If you’ve come this far in this post, you probably think I’m okay, and quite frankly, that’s more than I could ever ask for.

I don’t know what this whole life is about and I don’t pretend to, but I know that it’s only made better each and every day by the strangers (who often become friends) that I get to interact with.

Obsessively, I read everything everyone sends me and I am thankful for the people I get to hear from, talk to, and learn things about.

You guys are great. You make me really happy in a world that often feels cold and impersonal. I feel our relationships mean something to me, and if they do to you too, even better.

Thanks for talking to me, thanks for laughing with me, thanks for being angry with me, and thanks for reading this.

I honestly wish everyone happiness, if that’s what they want. And if they want weirdness, misery, woe, or confusion, I hope they get that too.

We’re in this together, and there’s a lot of ups and downs, but let’s laugh until it hurts and cry until it feels good again.

I love you

Elan

A Year of Disappointment!

Another year, another massive disappointment.

Good job, everyone. You’ve really let each other down. You’ve lied and stolen and cheated and you were late to dinner.

You forgot to get him a gift and you forgot to compliment her on her haircut. You forgot to introduce me at that party. You forgot to pick up scallions. 

You never wore those pants I liked. You didn’t even notice my manicure. You told me you loved me. You told me you hated me. You said nothing I wanted to hear. 

You burnt the rice. I told you the rice was done. Why did you do that?

You cheated on her with her best friend. You never call to say goodnight. You put regular gasoline in the car when you know it’s supposed to take premium. You never remember how I take my coffee.

You bought the wrong kind of milk, again.

And I fell for it all. Another year of disappointment. I was so stupid. I thought you meant it this time. That’s what’s really disappointing. Not that you’re disappointing, but that I keep allowing myself to feel hope. I’m my biggest disappointment. 

Not next year. I’m done with that. Low expectations, no pressure, no fear.

Well, no, that doesn’t seem right. 

I guess I’d rather be disappointed after having a few minutes of believing in something.

Good work, everyone: You disappointed the hell out of me this year. Let’s do it all over again. 

How Justine Sacco Accidentally Changed Everything

By now, everyone knows about Justine Sacco:

The tweet, the backlash, the deleted account, the hand-wringing, the attackers, the defenders, the everything.

I don’t want to get into any of that. I don’t know more about her than anyone else. I don’t think my opinions on the matter are particularly interesting, and I can assure you they’re not useful. But, here’s what I find alarming:

The Justine Sacco incident changed the internet forever.

Here’s why:

Before Justine Sacco got on her ill-fated flight, she was probably living a relatively normal life. She had 144 twitter followers, most of whom she probably knew personally. 

I’m going to call her a private citizen, for the sake of argument. Did she have her company’s information in her bio? Yes. But so do a lot of people, and saying that your opinions are yours and your alone isn’t really saying much anyway. After all, that’s what opinions are.

But here’s what’s interesting to me. This totally anonymous person wrote a highly offensive tweet and became a public figure in a matter of hours, ripe for dissecting and investigating.

Celebrities are used to this. Public figures, politicians, musicians, and athletes are trained to think before they speak, and to nimbly curate their words before unleashing them upon the world. 

Normal people aren’t.

But now, we have to.

We are in a new world. There is no division between “private citizens” and “public figures” in the world of social media anymore.

I’m not sure if this is good or bad. It will definitely stifle creativity. But it will also make people more mindful of what they put out into the world.

I think people are really glazing over how monumental a cultural shift this is. The democratization of information is now complete. 

We are all equal and we now have to acknowledge our responsibility to act as such. We can’t just pretend it’s “someone else” anymore.

Now, we are all someone else. 

Tea

The old woman could not hear the trees laughing, but they were.

For the 800th consecutive day now, she had put on shoes and walked to the other side of the park to have a cup of tea with her friend, George.

The trees watched every day as she walked back and forth, covered in woven sheep hair and spider eggs.

George was not even a real man. He was a bundle of snakes in a nylon human wrapper, which explained why he consumed his tea using a small double sided spoon wrapped in his forked tongue

The old lady didn’t seem to mind.

The trees laughed as George and the old lady drank boiling water filled with their dander.

The winds came every night and helped the trees shed their leaves. The same leaves that crackled under the feet of the old lady as she walked across the park to drink other leaves in hot water with a man made of snakes.

It all seems so silly, thought the trees, as they laughed

The Dog

When I walked into my new apartment, I saw a dog, which startled me.

Firstly, I had never seen a dog in real life. I had only seen them in movies and on television and in the operas my parents took me to as a child.

And never before had I seen one, regardless, wearing a crisp policeman’s uniform. He was sitting upright on a small chair in the middle of the empty living room. All the other furniture had been neatly stacked in the kitchen and painted white to match the ceiling. 

The dog handed me a notepad and on the first page was a note that said “Hello” but on the second page there was a hand-drawn picture of a large oak tree.

Of course, I immediately knew what this meant. 

"I’ll give you the furniture. I’ll even give you the fear I feel when the wind whips through this wretched city, blowing ghosts into my mouth, allowing them to scream into my ears directly from the inside. They are not trying to scare me, I know, but they do, because I am used to noises coming from the outside."

The dog, using a grease pencil, marked the number 6 on each piece of furniture in the kitchen. They weren’t mine anymore. He then walked up to me and drew a small circle around my ear, leaving a mark for the nighttime panic extractors, letting them know where to burrow. 

I sat on the lone chair in the middle of my new apartment and stared out the window, wondering why people kept dogs as pets at all.

Diane

As some of you know, I had a bit of an altercation today with a woman named Diane on an airplane.

I had a great time antagonizing her, reading your responses, and just generally trying to have fun with an irritating person. But I did have a point and I just want to put it out there.

I know I can come across as abrasive. I know I can seem harsh. But what I’ve never done is be unkind to a person in a service position.

My first job was in a video store. I rewinded tapes and put them back on the shelves. I was a caterer. I put ravioli into divided plates and cut bagels in half for hours at a time. The difference between someone being nice and someone being mean was the difference in how I felt when I went home that night. 

I don’t care what’s going on with you: Don’t be rude to people who are doing their job. 

Don’t do it.

Don’t dismiss them. Don’t act like they are less than you. Don’t abuse them just because you’re the customer and “The Customer Is Always Right.”

If you’re the customer, you’re only right if you’re kind, polite and positively thankful. If you’re not, you’re a jerk, and that’s the bottom line.

A lot of people have been really nice to me and called me a hero today. It’s really fun to hear but it’s not true. 

Our troops are heroes. Fire fighters and policemen are heroes. Doctors and teachers are heroes. Flight attendants and pilots and waiters and baristas… These are the people that make things work in this crazy world.

What I did today was just point out something we all know: Be nice. It’s Thanksgiving. Be nice. 

Be nice everyday, but if you see a man or a woman working on a holiday you better respect that they would like to be with their family too.

So have some compassion and have some appreciation.

Most people do. Most people are great. And then there are a bunch of Diane’s in the world.

And it’s OUR job to tell every Diane to shut up. 

It’s OUR duty to put the Diane’s of the world in their place.

We need to REMIND them about the way of things.

We outnumber them. 

So, I’m really glad we had fun today, but I really hope you guys join me, look a jerk in the eye, and tell them to eat a piece of your body, because really, that’s what the holidays are all about. 

Facts and Opinions

The only difference between an opinion and a fact is the way you look at it.

In many ways, there are no facts. There are just different ways of looking at things.

With that in mind, I think it’s important to think of your opinions as facts.

Don’t tell me what you think. Tell me what you know, and if you don’t feel passionately enough about something to think you “know” it, then you should probably save your breath.

A good argument is when two people take two competing facts and let them battle it out. 

The truth is created when an opinion beats out all other opinions.

Don’t say what you think is true. Decide what is true and then try to be right.

The Unfollow Dilemma

There’s that feeling. You know it’s going to hurt, and you know it’s going to require a lot of explanation, but you just have to hit that button.

It’s not that you don’t like that person. You may even love them. It’s just that you can’t anymore. You can’t.

No more baby photos. No more lunch updates. No more passive aggressive jabs at parents or bosses. No more.

It’s not personal.

Actually, that’s not true. It’s deeply, deeply personal.

Unfollowing someone is hard because what you’re really saying is:

I don’t even want you in my periphery.

I don’t even want to haphazardly, accidentally, think of you even for a moment as I go about my day.

Your life details not only fail to interest me, they actually actively repel me.

And not just a little bit. A lot.

So much so that I’m willing to have this horrible conversation. That I’m willing to hear about it second-hand from one of our friends.

It’s like a breakup, but it’s so much more. It’s a deletion from existence.

I not only don’t want to run into you at parties, I don’t want to even know that you go to them.

I want you gone.

It’s a hard thing to say and a hard thing to hear.

But the upside of it is: think of all the people that haven’t unfollowed you yet. Those people tolerate you, mostly.

 

Attention Surplus Disorder

Is there a thing called Attention Surplus Disorder? I think I have that. I can’t stop paying attention to things. I can’t help but overly focus on things constantly.

If I have simultaneous thoughts, they play side by side with tremendous clarity and they resemble fractals, with each little piece breaking down into smaller and smaller parts until eventually the particles are budding like flowers and suddenly growing back rapidly into many different iterations of their original form.

These little movies play side by side, but they are on opaque screens, never blocking out the world, but playing like projected home movies on a threadbare sheet in the wind, casting color and shape on the things behind it, but never fully obscuring everything.

Or is that Attention Deficit Disorder?

I am concentrating so hard on both right now, damn it.

My Glorious Death Kayak

            I think the scary thing about dying is that it will literally be the last thing I do.

            And even worse, I’m not even going to look my best at the time.

            The odds of going out looking super dapper are low, at best. I’d even bet that I’m not going to be in a very comfortable place. I’m just going to be this thing that death happens to and all my organs are going to send a signal to my brain that basically say “screw this, we’re done,” and that’s it.

            I’d like the last thing I do to be something better. I’d like the last thing I do to be hurling a kayak through a huge stained glass window. The kayak would hit the floor first and all the colored shards would shoot light in every direction, turning the world into a living kaleidoscope for just a few seconds.

            And the people who don’t know me at all would see the kayak and the people who know me well would see the color show I tried to leave them as I left the earth.

            So when I die, don’t look at the kayak. Look at everything around the kayak. And tell me I look pretty. 

           

July

            “I’m sleeping, July,” I said, holding my ear to the front door of my apartment, waiting to hear footsteps, but there were none. She was just standing there, on the other side. I could hear her violently breathing through her nose.

            “I’ll wait,” she said.

            My apartment didn’t have a peephole. Such things were extravagances.

            I could just hear her nose air, steadily increasing in knots, as she stared at me through the door.

            My phone was dead, drained by thousands of vibrations, missed calls, text messages.

            It was me and the door against July.

            The first time I met July she ignored me entirely. What a turn on.

            She was a new bartender at Rock Bottom, a place I liked going because no one there was good looking so I never had to smile or impress anyone or feel bad for sitting at a bar alone.

I could just be fat and drink beer on a wobbly stool and listen to the manager Carl complain about the guy who delivered the Newcastle kegs and what a dick he was. Frank was the door guy who didn’t need to be there because no one wanted to get in. Kelly worked there too. I think she was 90.

And then July came. I’m guessing Kelly died, but I’m not sure. I fixated immediately on the way she flirted with everyone but me. I was 22. She was 33. She had big beautiful eyes that she used to not look at me. She had gorgeous lips that she used to never talk to me and she had an amazing body that seemed to just glide away from me at every opportunity.

After a few weeks of this, I was at Rock Bottom and no one else was. It was just July and me. Without a glance she handed me a five dollar bill and asked me to put something on the jukebox. I walked over and picked a few songs. The first one was “To Be With You” by Mr. Big. She rolled her big beautiful ignorey eyes. She wiped the bar so thoroughly I thought she was going to fall right through it. After the song ended, she let out a deep sigh, letting me know she was glad it was over.

But it wasn’t. For five dollars you get 12 song selections, plus a bonus 3. I used her money wisely. I selected Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” 15 times in a row.

On the third time, it was annoying. By the fifth, it was infuriating. By the eigth play, it had become ridiculous. By the tenth, it was downright funny. And by the thirteenth play, we were outside smoking a cigarette together. Anything to get the hell away from that song.

She admitted it was a good move and she gave me her phone number and I left. I wasn’t there, but I bet she was smiling when the song played for the last time. And then the silence probably took over. I imagined July walked over and put in a quarter, just to hear it another time.

We fell for each other pretty quickly even though we knew very little about each other. She was a great artist and spent her time making custom pinball machines. I was an unemployed writer or whatever and I was sad. We both loved vodka and I’m not sure we ever saw each other sober. Ever.

We would sit on kitchen floors and smoke cheap menthols and make out in parking lots and take cabs we couldn’t afford to places we wouldn’t remember going to.

I’d visit her at Rock Bottom and she’d only pretend to ignore me now.

She would come by at 3am and we would drink on my front steps and she’d draw and complain about her mother and I would throw cards into a hat from across the living room.

We ate nostalgia and listened to our song frequently, flooding the room with the memory of a great moment that had died long ago.

 

So there she was, breathing through my front door, her fire threatening to compromise the frame.

It was true, I was sleeping, and this was the fourth night in a row she was doing this. It was 4am.

This time though, I didn’t let her in. And she didn’t wait. She just left. The note on my car told me exactly what I should do to myself.

I never went back to Rock Bottom again and she never called again. That was the end of July.

Two years later I ran into her at the drugstore. She was married to someone with the same name as me and she seemed really happy. She told me she had quit Rock Bottom.

            I tried to reminisce with her about some of the funny moments we had, but she didn’t remember any of them. She didn’t remember the song or the cabs or the floors. She didn’t remember knocking on my door.

 

            I always wonder how much of that whole thing I imagined. I mean, it’s so clear in my head but what if I’m wrong? What if her eyes never actually looked up across the bar? What if she didn’t hand me that bill? What if I was alone on one side of the door, hearing my own breath bouncing back off at me?

            Maybe it’s all true. Maybe none of it is, but I still remember it. I guess it doesn’t really matter either way.

            Rock Bottom isn’t there anymore, either, and it only exists in memories I share with no one.

            Maybe that’s why there was no peephole on my door: because only the things on the inside matter.

 

****For her protection, July is a fake name. Her real name was June. June Adams and I think she now lives in Glendale, CA****