the rise and fall of the roman republic, a memoir

I finally came clean to my mom. It was after a friend and I spent the afternoon tripping out on mushrooms. I’m not going to pretend I had any sort of revelation that hadn’t already been simmering in my guts for years, but it was just time to say it. “I’m suicidal.”

She said what moms all over the world would say, the good ones anyway. “Oh, honey.”

There is nothing wrong with mental illness. But it does have to be dealt with. For quite some time I went to a doctor in NY, and he gave me benzos and an SSRI. I never took the latter, but I used to former to mask alcoholism. If you’ve gotta take a customer out to dinner, it’s generally not great if you have the shakes. Benzos were the solution.

Last year, a friend came to stay with me at my apartment in NY. He and I had always spoken really candidly about our various problems. We toured Vancouver Island together, after all, so there was plenty of time to chat. He’s a great guy, even though he, too, is an asshole.

When he was my guest last year, though, I said, “I’m quitting drinking when I’m out of benzos.” I was unemployed and uninsured by then, so I was on my last scrip. I pointed to the pills, probably 20-25 or so, on my desk. There are three left now. There have been three left for a long time.

Yesterday I went to Gloucester, and a friend and I walked along the beach and sat on logs and watched the colors change as the mushrooms set in. I carried a bag with my lunch the whole time, and it became a running joke that I was just a normal dude with a plastic bag, because things are funny when you’re on mushrooms. It was a beautiful windy day, so we decided to lay down on the rocks, and because there were bugs everywhere that was funny, too. When we started to come down, we walked along a ridge of stones, plowed there by the city to protect against the storm-surge from the previous day’s Nor’easter. We slid and fell a lot. I gave my friend’s dog my sandwich, and the apple I’d brought along was too mealy to enjoy so I threw it into the sea.

There are a whole lot of things that are really beautiful in the world. You included.

god bless america

donald trump gave a press conference today. it’s his first since the time over the summer when he was like, ‘yo russia, hack that bitch woman who i hate because i’m a misogynist,’ and russia was like, ‘dude we already did, chill,’ and trump went on to fucking win the goddamn election because this is all a computer simulation and the 12-year-old who’s got the wheel is just beginning puberty so buckle the fuck up motherfuckers, because before you know it jennie isn’t going to want to dance with him at the eighth-grade semi-formal dance, and then what? then you fucking know what, don’t give me that. 12-year-old jesus is going to say ‘fuck this game, i’ve been playing long enough maybe jennie will love me NOW’ and then he’ll bomb someone because That Will Show Them, and we’ll all die and jennie won’t be impressed and your mother only loves you because she has nothing better to do. and then the world will be destroyed but it’s possible — just — that we’re in a multiverse, or we’re the figments of someone’s imagination, and just what if the end isn’t the end. if we clamor for the afterlife for long enough, do we get a participation trophy?

probably not but it’s fun to think about. and the main reason it’s fun to think about is because all of the war and pestilence that my country is about to unleash is really way too much of a bummer for me to grasp. on our own citizens, on people around the world. i don’t know. how do you apologize to everyone at once for something you didn’t even do? i’m pretty good at apologizing. i’ve done it for most of my adult life, because being a fuck up who’s not out on the street requires it. but for this? i don’t even know. any apology i could make would be bullshit. so no. no. i’m not sorry. i’m horrified. this is the most disgusting thing i’ve ever seen.

i don’t currently have a job because i’m super depressed and i don’t really feel like looking and i’ve got a tiny bit of savings and a credit card so ‘weeeeeeeeee motherfucker, let’s see how far down this hole i can go,’ and so today i watched president barack obama’s farewell speech, which is available to stream on fine internet properties such as the youtube, etc., and i just i dunno. i mean, i love the guy. just seems like a fundamentally decent dude. and people are gonna be like, ‘oh well he droned motherfuckers,’ and i’m like, ‘no shit, dude. no shit.’ because yeah. no shit. no shit, dude. in this country, though, you’ve only got two choices. i picked obama twice and i’d pick him again and again and again if i could. it’s been said a lot, but it bears repeating: we didn’t know how good we had it.

obama said this, he said: ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,’ and i know somebody out there is gonna say, “AKCTCSHSSHUALLY JFK SAID THAT” and you’re right but i don’t give a shit. obama said it better. he spent the last ten minutes of his time with us imploring us to get involved.

which is kind of a weird thing. we take it for granted, but for lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of people, you can’t just get involved. you can’t just say, ‘fuck it i’m gonna call this person on my lunch break because i’m animated and their job depends on my support.’ you can’t fucking do that most places. you really fucking can’t. stop pretending that what we have here is at all guaranteed. stop pretending that your contrarianism, your privileged above-it-all-ness is something anyone in the opposition gives a fuck about protecting. they don’t. if there’s one thing this election has taught me, it’s that barry was right. democracy is fragile. this is no-fucking-around time.

(probably always has been, but i’m still learning)

the bible tells us a lot about trials and tribulations. job, jesus — the whole lot of them pretty much just suffered and died, and then people were like ‘that’s cool,’ and then other people were like ‘same,’ and then jesus and job got book deals and whatever. and that’s fine. that’s good. but the message of determinism is the message of freedom, and it suggests that we are bound to find our way out of this. and that if we don’t, that it’s better to die trying. it’s better to fail at finding freedom than to win at anything else.

marblehead

my parents were baby-boomers, so that helps explain things. other than that, they were fairly normal. my mom, granted, spent most of my childhood pretending to be four years younger than she actually is, but whatever, grown-ups are weird. source: i’m a grown-up now.

i went to marblehead today to help a man do work on his computer. he’d said over the phone that he needed help with formatting in microsoft office, so i figured he had the tiniest bit of knowledge about it, but no. nope. not this time. which isn’t to talk unnecessary smack. the guy seemed perfectly fine, an environmental lawyer who was now going to be [redacted] in his retirement. probably accomplished more than we’ll ever get the chance to, if i’m being honest. which i can’t quite be sure of these days anymore.

so i clicked and dragged icons to the desktop, recommended he never use internet explorer again, showed him how to double-space shit on word. all in all, it was tremendously boring work, but i felt, for a little while at least, helpful.

“you could probably google the library and see if they have classes available,” i said. “or just call them.” he and i had been discussing the merits of phone calls versus text messages briefly, and i hadn’t wanted to get into it.

“is there a trash barrel,” i said, coffee cup in hand.

“yes, it’s downstairs in the kitchen as you make your way out.”

it’s kind of weird interacting with socially awkward people who don’t know how to use computers and it’s even more weird when you’re teaching them how to right click, but anyway, it was especially weird to be like, “uh, okay, thanks [redacted]!” from the landing because dude wouldn’t show me to the door. and made a bad joke about his dog that doesn’t really bear repeating. and had just given me $40, which, okay, i guess that’s the value of a right click and running malwarebytes these days.

the world is so terribly fucked.

thoughts before coffee

Doris says, “Use your head, c’mon, Tom.”

I say, “I know how to clean a vase. This would be much faster without two people doing it.”

Doris is my boss for the moment. I don’t really need the job, but I’m bored and some of my favorite people on earth work there (and have worked there for years), and so I’m like, “Okay, Doris. What do you want done?”

And she cleans a vase like one would clean a vase, and I’m like, “Oh, wow. Thanks.”

I do not hide my sarcasm.

Doris is a crazy person, but she has the virtues of 1) being incredibly talented, 2) commanding respect, and 3) sometimes earning that respect. Most of her employees are lifers. She is probably the worst boss I’ve ever had. But I do know that she’ll always hire me. I don’t really know why. She hired me in high school when I was just trying to earn enough money for a bit of weed and some cigarettes, and maybe an ice cream for my high school sweetheart. She’s hired me every time I’ve asked since. When my dad died, and it was the day of the wake and we were all just fucked up and trying to deal — when I called her and said, “Holy fuck, I need some funeral shit, I don’t even know what, and the service is in two hours,” she put that shit together and got it to the service well before it was due.

There’s probably something to be said about loyalty and all that. Hell, I almost quit yesterday, but I didn’t. In the meantime, I’d rather have coffee.

Dear White Friend

(The below was not written by the proprietor of this blog. It needs to be read.)

Dear White Friend,

It is important that you understand what I am feeling as a thirty-two year old Black man now that Donald Trump has been elected President, with specific regard to race. It is important not only because you care for me, but because you need to protect and fight for me and for all others who lack the camouflage of white skin. Otherwise– and I mean this without hyperbole– we are the walking dead. And you, by your silence, ignorance and passivity, will be killing us.

I am more scared than I’ve ever been in my life. I am broken. There is a feeling when someone says or does something with racial animus to me. It is a trembling, a quaking pain that is unbelievably pervasive, as though all the water molecules in my body were suddenly replaced by that person’s pulsating hatred. At this moment, and for a long time in the future, it will feel like that but more, that the very air around me has done it, the atmosphere itself hates me for no decent reason. There is already a fear as a Black man, an extreme adrenaline rush, when a cop pulls behind me on the road. The entire country has just pulled behind me with their lights flashing.

I want to express to you the absolutely defeated feeling I have. I want you to know the sorrow that comes with having a revitalized and powerful White Supremacist element in this country, my country. I want you to know that the “not all Whites” excuses are irrelevant and actually harmful when the truth is that the strong majority of Whites were willing to vote for a man who has both spoken and acted in ways that are deeply bigoted and violent. I want you to think of the racially violent acts now committed daily by people with his name on their lips. I want you to think about what it feels like to me that so many of my fellow Americans hate me, and that I have no idea why. That I have no clue as to what we ever did to deserve this. And that they are excited and empowered to do more harm to me now than ever before during my lifetime.

I also need you to know how furious and hurt I am that life goes on as normal. Not just that the media and entertainment are already working so hard to normalize what cannot humanely become normal, but that people are walking on the street, having conversations, petting dogs and cats, anything beyond being sick and screaming over how this all must feel for me, for non-White people. I cannot believe it when I see someone look okay. This election was an act of terrorism. That is how I feel. Terrorized by White America. And it is an ongoing act of terrorism, as these White smiles I see only remind me that they are camouflaged against the brunt of it, that I am the target, and that they’ve never had skin in this game like I do.

I want to be optimistic, I really do, but honestly I don’t believe that White people will do the work necessary to save this country. And I lay the burden of saving America on White people because of this: In the ‘50s and ‘60s White Supremacy was static, stable, complacent. The appetite for Black and Brown blood in the streets was limited because it was bitterly shocking. Now, however, White Supremacy is ascendant. There is an active thirst for that blood. My blood. My blood in the streets will be met with celebration. And I don’t think that there are enough White people good enough to be strong enough to protect me and fight for me. I really don’t.

It will take a whole lot more than a safety pin. You will have to pick apart the very fabric of your understanding of race, examine the threads of your beliefs and separate even the tiniest fibers of prejudice you may see. Headscarf make you scared? You’ve ripped her faith away and humiliated her. Poor English language skills annoy you? You’ve made the doctor miss the symptoms of a lymphoma. Black man make your heart rate rise? You’ve shot him in the back as he ran away. Work at this. Diligently destroy the impure fibers, and when you can honestly say that you have, then you can re-weave. But this is only step one.

Step two is to make sure that every White person you know is actively doing the same thing. If they are not, if they refuse or dismiss the imperative, then you must literally disown them. Otherwise you are agreeing with them, you are complicit in their beliefs, and you are killing me.

Step three, resist and undermine in any way you can possibly devise the systems of White Supremacy as well as misogyny as they exist now and as the incoming administration advances them. And always, no matter the situation, confront racism and misogyny immediately and directly. I’m talking about friends, family, strangers, always, anywhere, anytime. There is no scale to racism and misogyny. They are never minor, never casual, always inestimably consequential. They are always a massive threat to humanity.

One last note, remember that Black and Brown people don’t owe you explanations to basic questions. The moment you as a White person comes asking some basic thing, I know you don’t really care because you’re too lazy to do the legwork and figure it out. We’ve literally written books so that you can understand. Think hard before you ask me to speak, be completely stumped, because I am tired and you need to respect me. And another thing, I do not owe you thanks. It is to be expected that you would fight for my safety, as I would yours. So do not go telling non-White people about how great you are for being an ally. Being an ally simply brings you to the level of basic human decency. You should be ashamed if you’re bragging about that.

I’m not going to thank you for reading this yet, because I am not sure what you will do in the future. I hope that my love for you has been well-placed all these years, and that you’ll prove it by listening to, trying to understand, and then acting on what I’m saying. And if you can’t, it is time our relationship ends. If you hear me and believe my words to be worth hearing, please do pass this along to those who would like to hear it and to those who would rather not.

Love,

CF Edley III

P.S. This letter leaves out so much, I know. I have focused on White Supremacy. There’s a whole other interlocking letter regarding misogyny to be written. I haven’t even mentioned Climate Change, or any real policy issues. Believe me, it is not for not caring. There are interpenetrating universes of immense suffering. I am devastated. I hope that you are too.

where we are and where we are going

I admit that I thought the election would be a blowout,  that white people wouldn’t go full throttle on dooming the planet. That the polls were correct and that Donald Trump was such an abomination that, although people expressed their support for him quite loudly, he ultimately didn’t have the numbers. I believed all that. I was anxious, and glued to Twitter and my RSS feed, updating 538, Sam Wang, of course. But they said it was in the bag, so I curbed my anxiety. When I voted, I was in a sea of women, and I reassured myself knowing that women, at least, wouldn’t let that happen. Wouldn’t let this happen. Watching the returns come in, looking at Sam Wang on Twitter. “Nothing matters until 10 PM,” he said. Chill out. So I did, but not really, but I chilled out, and again I’m lying here. But I did, and when it was 10 PM everything was still shit and so I looked at Twitter again, and everyone’s like, “Fuck.” And I said, oh my god this really might be happening.

I have a friend who posted on Facebook something to the effect of, “This wouldn’t have happened with Bernie.” And I looked at the Colorado measure to pass single-payer healthcare failing overwhelmingly, Russ Feingold losing, the rust belt beaming red, and all I could do was shake my head. Donald Trump was inevitable in this country, I suppose. The story of failed states, time and again, is one of the charlatan seizing power and botching it. The center can’t hold forever, as someone once said much more beautifully than I. We’re about to see what happens on the edges.

The accelerationists, naturally, will be okay with this. They can be, as they typically have the privilege to cheer for burning it all down. Wannabe revolutionaries with their 401ks and their iPhones, just as culpable as the rest of us for the horros of capitalism, pretending to be above the fray because they read Marx in undergrad and really got it, man. There’s nothing at stake for them. I’m a straight white able-bodied cis-gendered man. There isn’t much at stake for me under a Trump Presidency, either. The difference is that I understand a basic responsibility to not fuck things up for other people. That fellow leftists don’t seem to get this is gross. That they would demand a candidate cater to them, prioritize them, ensure she’s won them over, when the lives and livelihoods of millions upon millions are at stake, is the epitome of selfishness, and they don’t deserve to be called people of the left.

And that leaves us with where we’re at and where we’re going.

I went to the bar last night to read the news and get drunk and talk to random people, because fuck it that’s what bars are for, and Jesus. Just Jesus. Two friends who’ve recently started dating stopped by for food and we chatted about this and that before they left. I spoke to a lovely couple about the election, and they were boomers and on a date and just really quite nice. Another friend said she’d swing by in a bit. I got into an argument on Facebook because I dunno I just felt like it. And then in the middle of all that, there was this guy. Who is also a friend. I’m not gonna use his real name. He’s just this guy.

So this guy comes in with a buddy and two women, none of whom I know, and he’s like, “Hey!” and I’m like, smiling and pretending to be happy about anything in the world, “What the shit is going on?” And he’s like, “Kicking it, meet [names omitted because I honestly forget].” And I’m like, “Nice to meet you!” So whatever. And we get to talking and they seem fine — because fine-ness is what I’m judging the outside world on these days — and then, because I’m dumb, “Let’s talk politics, who’d you vote for?”

So both this guy and his buddy voted Trump and I’m like c’mon dude really? And they’re like Fuck Yeah Can’t Stump The Trump. And I’m like, c’mon. You’re fucking dumb. And things start to get loud between me and this dude’s friend, so I’m like, okay. Let’s go outside to talk.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t turn into a fistfight.

So we go outside to have a cigarette and not cause a scene, and we berate one another, and one of the women (the far drunker one) is like, “Go Trump. It’s just locker room talk, I’ve heard way worse than that!” And I’m like, really? And the other woman is like, These People Are Nuts, I Voted Hillary, Too. And I’m like, Thank God. And the woman who’s all Go Trump MAGA is like, “Whoops, I didn’t actually vote yesterday,” and this dude and his friend are like, “Trump isn’t the establishment,” and I’m like, “Really?”

This dude’s friend and the MAGA lady then leave to go fuck behind a dumpster (really, this is what they did), and I continue to argue with my friend, this dude. We shout and wave our stupid drunk dicks around about this and that. The dumpster fucking couple comes back from fucking behind a dumpster (again, this is really what they did — they went and fucked behind a dumpster), and they all leave.

Jane comes by a couple of minutes later. We smoke pot and way too many cigarettes and have a couple of beers and generally feel devastated.

Welcome to the future, America.

Hotel by Tom: New York City

I realize right off the bat that the task is impossible. I come to the table as someone who grew up hating the Yankees, the Rangers, every New York City sports organization, really. I lived in Portland, Oregon for three years, which pretty much disqualifies me from everything. I lived in Montreal for four — when Arcade Fire was getting big and people were like, “Whoa, Montreal is super cool now, but unfortunately I don’t speak French so I’m actually not going to ruin it this time.” Same deal as Portland, that Montreal. Minus the ruining.

So to give New York a review is kind of daunting. Intimidating. They say you can’t be a true New Yorker until you’ve lived here ten years. I was four years three days ago. I got a lot of time before I can claim that title.

But this isn’t a review of a city; it’s a review of a hotel. And if New York will allow it, since I’m not entitled to call myself a New Yorker, I’ll review it as such. I put my head to rest here for the better part of four years. I think I know the basics.

Amenities

Fantastic. I stopped in Staten Island once for gas and it was there. I don’t really think about the Bronx much, but I’m sure they have bodegas and I think there’s a zoo. My sister lives in Astoria, Queens, which must mean gyros and there’s also airports. Manhattan is, of course, the borough we all hate. Our jobs are there, but, pssh, who cares about that because I live in:

Brooklyn!

Brooklyn is filled with wonderful people. There’s a big park and rent is really expensive. But lots of people don’t have cars so it’s a trade-off. You can get a nice meal out for ten bucks. There’s laundromats where they fold your clothes and that’s like ten bucks, too. Everything is kinda ten bucks here, except a bacon, egg, and cheese, which is $3.50 max.

Weather

The weather is pretty much like everywhere. You’ll grow to love three or four months out of the year and spend the rest of your time complaining about it to your friends, whose choices will pretty much mirror yours, and if they don’t you need new friends but that’s another story.

Money

New York is not as expensive as most people make it out to be. While the cost of living is high by national standards, in terms of home ownership and rental units, simple measures like these don’t take into account the comparatively higher salaries many people earn in New York. As mentioned earlier, you likely won’t have to pay for an oil change for several years if you live here — never mind $4.00/gallon gas. You compromise.

The appropriate unit of currency is the U.S. Dollar (USD).

Health and Well Being

Healthcare is generally quite good in the United States. New York City, in particular, has several world-renowned hospitals. The availability of quality healthcare services to the general public has been greatly increased in the past several years due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. As a visitor, you may want to consult with your healthcare provider to determine if you may need any additional coverage.

Well being is a more complicated topic. New York City may be the loneliest in the Western Hemisphere. The people here are very happy to help in most situations, because they’re so lonely, but they might pretend it’s a burden at first, to prove that New York is hard. But really we’re all quite nice. I’ve only been punched in the face once in four years. And I’m an asshole.

Lodging and Hotels

Try your best to stay somewhere that exudes charm. Like, Midtown is gonna be very “Ooh, this is so New York,” but everyone who has to work there every day hates it, and their arguments and opinions are rather unassailable. I’m not saying that Olive Garden doesn’t have charm, or that Chipotle doesn’t have fantastic guacamole, but you can get that at home.

So, as I said, just stay in my neighborhood. I live in Brooklyn! We can eat locally and you can probably AirBnB my buddy’s spot for a couple of nights!

 

Public Transit and Taxis

This is probably the best part of New York and also the worst. But really the best. Take a screengrab of the MTA map on your phone and you won’t have to be one of those people hovering over other passengers while you try to figure out where your transfer is. Another tip: spend $20 on a Metrocard and learn how to swipe it properly before you go to Grand Central at rush hour.

With respect to taxis, never let a cabbie ask you where you’re going before you get into the cab. With respect to black cars, negotiate as soon as you sit down. They aren’t legally allowed to pick you up if you wave them down, so don’t be afraid to get an honest price. (You won’t get one because you’re new here, but maybe after three years or so… Maybe. It could happen.)

Sights to See

I’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty or 9/11. This is probably the part where you’d be better off looking at a legitimate Hotel by Tom site.

In conclusion:

New York City has been my favorite city to hate. Moving here was a stupid decision fueled by hormones and romanticized notions of what love actually is. It turned out okay because I met interesting people. There are a lot of those here. And they’re all being interesting with one another doing that timeless duty of not dying.

I’m starting to gain a semblance of self-awareness. For that, and everything mentioned above, I give New York a four out of five. Or, to put it in bold:

Rating: 4/5

It’s been real. And, thanks.