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Category Archives: emo bullshit

Thoughts on Pratchett – [Part 1]

Earlier this year, when I was in Germany on tour, Terry Pratchett died.

It didn’t come as a complete shock. We’ve known for ages that he was sick. We’ve had years to brace for the inevitable impact.

Even so, it hit me surprisingly hard. I hadn’t expected that.

Odds are, if you know much anything about me, you know I’ve been a fan of Pratchett for years. If you follow me on goodreads you’ve seen me write reviews so gushy that they border on the inarticulate.

Terry Pratchett – Facing Extinction

I didn’t know him. Honestly, I didn’t even know too much about him. I saw him speak once at a convention in Madison, and got to meet him very briefly. I wrote about it on the blog.

The fact remains that his work (and a few of the things I knew about him) had a huge impact on me.

So… yeah. It hit me kinda hard.

If you’re in your 20’s and 30’s and reading this blog on the interweb, it may be hard for you to understand that our opinions about authors used to come almost entirely from reading their books. Even after the internet crawled gasping onto the devonian shore of the 1990’s things like social media and author blogs simply didn’t exist in any meaningful way.

As a result, one of my first exposures to Terry Pratchett as a person was in an interview in the Onion back in 1995. Just to give you an idea of the time frame. That was back when you could pick up a copy of The Onion printed on paper. What’s more, it available *only* on paper, and even then, you could only get it in my home town of Madison, WI.

What Pratchett said in that interview had a big effect on me, as I’d been working on my own novel for a couple years at that point.

It took some digging (as I said, this was published pre-internet) but here’s the interview:

O: What’s with the big-ass hat?

Pratchett: Ah… That’s the hat I wear. I don’t know, it… It… That hat, or types like it, I’ve worn for years and years. Because I bought one, and I liked it. And then people started taking photographs of me in it, and now, certainly in the UK, it’s almost a case of if I don’t turn up in my hat people don’t know who I am. So maybe I could just send this hat to signings. I just like hats. I like Australian book tours, because Australians are really, I mean that is the big hat country, Australia.

O: You’re quite a writer. You’ve a gift for language, you’re a deft hand at plotting, and your books seem to have an enormous amount of attention to detail put into them. You’re so good you could write anything. Why write fantasy?

Pratchett: I had a decent lunch, and I’m feeling quite amiable. That’s why you’re still alive. I think you’d have to explain to me why you’ve asked that question.

O: It’s a rather ghettoized genre.

P: This is true. I cannot speak for the US, where I merely sort of sell okay. But in the UK I think every book— I think I’ve done twenty in the series— since the fourth book, every one has been one the top ten national bestsellers, either as hardcover or paperback, and quite often as both. Twelve or thirteen have been number one. I’ve done six juveniles, all of those have nevertheless crossed over to the adult bestseller list. On one occasion I had the adult best seller, the paperback best-seller in a different title, and a third book on the juvenile bestseller list. Now tell me again that this is a ghettoized genre.

O: It’s certainly regarded as less than serious fiction.

P:  (Sighs) Without a shadow of a doubt, the first fiction ever recounted was fantasy. Guys sitting around the campfire— Was it you who wrote the review? I thought I recognized it— Guys sitting around the campfire telling each other stories about the gods who made lightning, and stuff like that. They did not tell one another literary stories. They did not complain about difficulties of male menopause while being a junior lecturer on some midwestern college campus. Fantasy is without a shadow of a doubt the ur-literature, the spring from which all other literature has flown. Up to a few hundred years ago no one would have disagreed with this, because most stories were, in some sense, fantasy. Back in the middle ages, people wouldn’t have thought twice about bringing in Death as a character who would have a role to play in the story. Echoes of this can be seen in Pilgrim’s Progress, for example, which hark back to a much earlier type of storytelling. The epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest works of literature, and by the standard we would apply now— a big muscular guys with swords and certain godlike connections— That’s fantasy. The national literature of Finland, the Kalevala. Beowulf in England. I cannot pronounce Bahaghvad-Gita but the Indian one, you know what I mean. The national literature, the one that underpins everything else, is by the standards that we apply now, a work of fantasy.

Now I don’t know what you’d consider the national literature of America, but if the words Moby Dick are inching their way towards this conversation, whatever else it was, it was also a work of fantasy. Fantasy is kind of a plasma in which other things can be carried. I don’t think this is a ghetto. This is, fantasy is, almost a sea in which other genres swim. Now it may be that there has developed in the last couple of hundred years a subset of fantasy which merely uses a different icongraphy, and that is, if you like, the serious literature, the Booker Prize contender. Fantasy can be serious literature. Fantasy has often been serious literature. You have to fairly dense to think that Gulliver’s Travels is only a story about a guy having a real fun time among big people and little people and horses and stuff like that. What the book was about was something else. Fantasy can carry quite a serious burden, and so can humor. So what you’re saying is, strip away the trolls and the dwarves and things and put everyone into modern dress, get them to agonize a bit, mention Virginia Woolf a few times, and there! Hey! I’ve got a serious novel. But you don’t actually have to do that.

(Pauses) That was a bloody good answer, though I say it myself.

I’m looking forward to buying myself a cheese hat.

O: Back to the hat.

P: Let’s go back to the hat… Everybody needs an edge, and if the hat gives you an edge, why not wear a hat? When you get started writing, you’re one of the crowd. If the hat helps, I’ll wear a hat— I’ll wear two hats! In fact, I’m definitely going to buy a cheese hat before I leave here. We’ve never heard of them in the UK, and I can see it as being the latest thing in fashion.

Okay, you can turn the tape back off again.

I actually remember where I was when I read that. Right now, twenty years later, I remember where I was sitting as I held the paper and read it.

I’m not going to be cliche and say it changed my life.

You know what? I am. I’m going to say it. It changed my life.

Remember what year this was. It was 1995. This was before Harry Potter was written. Before Neil Gaiman wrote Neverwhere.

Pixar has just released its first movie. There was no Matrix. No Sixth Sense. No Lord of The Rings movies. Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy were a decade away.

There was no Game of Thrones on HBO. Hell, there wasn’t even Legend of the Seeker. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was 2 years away, and even more years from being recognized as brilliant television, rather than silly fluff with vampires.

I had been writing my fantasy novel for about two years, and while I loved fantasy, I knew deep down, it was something I should feel ashamed of. Fantasy novels were the books I read as a kid, and people picked on me for it. There were no classes on the subject at the University. I knew deep down in my bones that no matter how much I happened to love fantasy, it was all silly bullshit.

Even these days, people look down on fantasy. They think of it as kid stuff. They dismiss it as worthless. They say not real literature. People say that *NOW* despite the fact that Game of Thrones and The Hobbit and Avengers and Harry Potter are bigger than The Beatles.

That’s NOW. If you weren’t around back then, you really can’t begin to understand how much worse it was. When I told people I was working on a fantasy novel, a lot of people wouldn’t even really know what I was talking about.

I would say, “I’m writing a fantasy novel” and people would look at me with earnest confusion and concern in their eyes, and they would say, “Why?”

Then I read that article, and it filled me with hope. With pride.

*     *     *

I’ve got more to say on this, but this blog is already really long. And I’m leaving for PAX in the morning, so I’ll save the rest for next week

Be good to each other everyone,

pat

Also posted in European Adventures, Fantasy, Stories about stories., the longest fucking blog ever, the man behind the curtain, travel abroad | By Pat78 Responses

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

So my book is launching today, and so far I’ve spent the day trying not to think about it.

I am not a nervous person, but I’ll be honest with you. This book has me tied in a bit of a knot. I didn’t feel this way when Name of the Wind came out because I knew that book was good. I’d carried it around next to my heart for 14 years before it was published. I was confident in it.

But this book… When I finished it, I honestly expected it to just sit in a trunk for years. I knew I liked it. But I also knew it wasn’t like any sort of fantasy story I’d ever read before. At best it was arty, at worst it was incomprehensible. Bizarre. I mean, just look at the title: The Slow Regard of Silent Things. What does that even mean? My translators can’t figure it out, and I can’t articulate it in any sensible way. So in the rest of the world, the book is going to be “The Music of Silence.”

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And yes, yes, I liked it, but it was *my* book. Of course I like it. An author’s view of their own work is never objective.

So today I’m nervous. I’m resisting the urge to go look for reviews. Actively fighting the urge. The almost overwhelming urge. That way lies madness.

So I go onto twitter instead. The first, best refuge of a desperate man looking for substanceless distraction. And instead I and see people talking about the book. They’ve already read it, and before I can look away, I see this:

@PatrickRothfuss Just finished the book. I can only compare it to Ulysses, but not boring. You just made art. Makes the world brightier.

— Deoch y Stanchion (@DeochyStanchion) October 28, 2014

And it helps. A little. The twitter handle lets me know the reader isn’t exactly objective either. They’re obviously a fan…

But the more I roll this around in my head, the more it troubles me. Ulysses was one of those books that I was supposed to read for class but I never did. All I really know about it is that it’s one of the all-time front runners for pretentious, literary self-indulgence, right?

So I turn off twitter. I avoid reading e-mails that might even imply they have anything to do with my book. Then I grit my teeth and answer them anyway, because most of them are from my publisher, and I can’t just leave them hanging.

book

I just went online to find a copy of the US cover to post up, and I found this. This sort of thing warms my heart. Y’all are so enthusiastic and encouraging and kind. It makes me smile. It makes me think that things will be okay. My readers are up for something a little different. They’re geeks. They’re smart.

Then I picture the person above reading the book, their forehead furrowed, their expression screaming, “What the actual fuck Rothfuss? What the hell is this story even about?”

I hate the thought of disappointing people. And this is something that I didn’t understand until I was a parent. The more someone loves you, the more you have the ability to disappoint them. I love my little boy, and I get so irritated with him sometimes. Oot loves me beyond all reason and sense, and when I tell him no, I have hours of work to do, I can’t play, his face falls. Then he smiles a fake smile at me and tells me it’s okay. He’s only five and he already knows how to fake a smile to hide his disappointment. It breaks my heart.

I’m doing an event in Portland tonight in just a couple hours. It will be a good time. The Doubleclicks are opening for me, and last I heard we’d sold over 700 tickets.

What’s the point of all of this? There’s no point. I’m just rambling. Fretting.

I should go take a shower and see if I can do something to make myself look slightly civilized. Maybe eat some dinner. I should definitely Coffee-Up for my performance. Caffeine will probably help.

I hope all of you are well. If you’re reading the book, I hope you’re enjoying it. If you’re not reading the book, I hope you’re enjoying not reading it.

As always, yours in verbosity,

pat

Also posted in things I shouldn't talk about, trepidation | By Pat267 Responses

Fanmail Q&A: Convention Adventures

Pat,

I know you just did some touring around. You hit a bunch of conventions in Indianapolis, Chicago, and Seattle…

Why don’t you tell us about your trips? Not a lot of us can make it to your events, but we’d love to hear some cool stories from the road…

What was you’re favorite part of your travels?

Joe.

*     *     *

Joe,

The truth is, I always mean to write about my conventions/readings/adventures when I get back from them. Because honestly, something interesting always happens.

(What happens in Austin, stays in Austin.)

The problem is, when I get back from these things, I’m exhausted. Plus the travel has usually put me behind on a bunch of other projects. So I spend a couple days answering e-mail and trying to get caught up with things. By the time I *am* caught up, the convention has usually been over for a month. Or two. Or ten.

In fact, when I was at Gencon, someone asked me a question similar to yours. Except they asked about the book tour I did last year. 21 events in 21 days, all over the country.

“You never wrote about it on the blog,” she said.

“Oh sure I did,” I said.

“A little,” she said. “But not much at all. And I should know. I just recently found your blog and read the whole thing.”

“Wow,” I said. “Seriously?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I twisted my ankle so I couldn’t go hiking. It took me about three weeks and I kinda I read it all. The baby ducks. Your Aslan Story. The  Gaiman-Day unit of coolness…

I thought about it for a second, and realized that while I had *planned* to write blogs about some of my road adventures, I’d probably never gotten around to it.

Alternately, sometimes I start writing a blog, and never finish it because other things come up. I have a blog titled: “why people kill themselves in hotel rooms” that I’ve been trying to finish for more than a year now….

“So what was your favorite part of the tour?” she asked.”What was cool?”

I thought about it for a bit. Then told her the truth: There were a lot of cool things that happened. I met a lot of lovely readers. I got hugs and cookies and whiskey and knives…

And a plush unicorn Pegasus kitten.

I did a midnight reading in San Fransisco for the people that couldn’t fit into my earlier reading. Much to everyone’s surprise, more than 300 people showed up despite the ridiculously late hour.

My first signing was over 600 people. So many that I couldn’t take a picture of them all at once. So many that they filled two levels of the bookstore. I got to read in the Library of Congress. I met people that actually squeed with delight.

I met someone who had my name tattooed on her arm…

…which is a level of devotion that is equal parts flattering and terrifying. Especially given that book two wasn’t even out yet.

I got to do a reading at the Library of Congress. People dressed up in costumes….

But honestly? My favorite part came right at the end of the tour, when I met up with Sarah and Oot right at the end of the tour in Boston. I hadn’t seen them in a long while, and I missed Oot terribly.

Oot was barely a year an a half old at that point, so me being away for three weeks was a big deal. I got to see him at various points in the tour, but it was only for an hour or an evening at a time. And as I’ve made clear on the blog, when I’m away from him for a long period of time, I start to lose my shit. Around day five I become a wretched weepy thing, unable to go out in public without embarrassing myself.

It was even worse back then. He was so young. I was worried he wouldn’t remember me. Worried that he’d be shy of me….

So the first morning after the tour was over, we hung out in the hotel. We cuddled a little, and when he got bored with that, I asked him if he wanted to make a pillow fort.

He did. So we made a fort using the ridiculous number of pillows that those posh hotels feel obliged to put on your bed.

To all you parents out there. If you’re not making pillow forts with your kids, you’re really missing out. You don’t need a lot of pillows. Three or four is plenty. In some ways, it can be better without a lot of pillows, because then you can make yourself *part* of the fort. If your kid isn’t a big cuddler, you can get some clandestine snuggling that way.

Sarah and my dad went out for breakfast. Oot and I didn’t. We stayed in the hotel room and continued to made forts.

I told Oot that he better be careful, because there was a creature called the Goonch that would nibble his feet if they were hidden under the pillows. Then I would sneak my hand under the pillow and tickle him.

It has been more than a year since I started that little game, and it still hasn’t gotten old. Not for either of us.

He had a few plush toys with him, and I thought that maybe they would try to break into the fort. Add some drama to the game.

But Oot thought that if they wanted to come in the fort, that was fine by him. That made me unreasonably proud. No pointless antagonism. No warmongering. He just wanted to hang out in his fort with his friends.

So it went for about two hours, until Sarah and my dad got back from breakfast.

That was my favorite part of my book tour….

[Editorial note: I just searched my computer for an hour, looking for the pictures I know I took of little Oot in his pillow fort. I can’t find them and it breaks my heart a little.

Instead, please accept this picture of comparable cuteness]

(Click to Embiggen the Cute.)

I know we’re all programmed to think our kids are cute, but seriously. Look at him.

And that hair. I can’t bring myself to cut it. He’s just too pretty. About 80% of the people who meet him think he’s a little girl because of it. But I love it. Plus  can’t help but feel that will probably be healthy for him in the long run. Maybe if folks think he’s a girl for another couple years he’ll be slower to absorb some of the gender bullshit that’s constantly fucking up our culture.

*     *     *

Anyway Joe, I hope that kinda answers your questions. For one, it’s not that I try to keep these stories secret, it’s just that I tend to be busy and forgetful.

For two, generally speaking, my favorite part of these adventures is coming home to my little boy.

Rest assured that I’ll be sharing at least one cool story from Gencon in the semi-near future. One that Scalzi has already mentioned on his blog.

In the meantime, here’s one cool thing that happened in Chicago.

I wore a tux:

Oot wore a tuxedo shirt. We were quite the dashing pair….

Later all,

pat

Also posted in book two, conventions, fan coolness, Fanmail Q + A, Oot, Surreal enthusiasm, Tales from the Con | By Pat60 Responses

A New Addition to the Family

So just a couple days ago, The Wise Man’s Fear came out in trade paperback.

(Cue the music from 2001.)

The new format looks even more monolith like than the hardcover. And in fact, there’s only a few differences between the two:

1. It’s cheaper.

2. It’s smaller.

3. We fixed a couple typos.

4. The front cover is slightly different. Now instead of saying, “New York Times Bestseller Patrick Rothfuss,” it says:

Which, I have to admit, makes me feel a little cool….

The last big difference is that this version has blurbs for The Wise Man’s Fear on the back.

(Click to embiggen.)

A lot of these quotes I hadn’t actually seen before. So that was pretty cool…

I got to actually hold my first copy a couple of days ago. They used the same nice paper as the hardcover, so the book still has a solid weight to it. A satisfying feel. But the way I feel holding this book is far from objective….

The cherry on top of the book release sundae was a four-color ad in the New York Times Review of Books.

The ad quotes from the extraordinarily flattering blog George Martin wrote a while back when he was talking about who he was going to nominate for the Hugos this year.

You’ll notice that this picture is not guest starring my thumb, which is usually the case. This is actually guest starring the thumb of Amanda, one of the assistants I mentioned in my last blog.

It’s odd to me that out of all of this, that one small thing is what strikes me as most odd about all of this: Her thumb.

You see, four years ago, my publisher took out an add in the New York Times to help promote the paperback release of The Name of the Wind. At that point in my life, I’d barely been published for a year. I was a complete fluffy puppy of a newbie author, and the fact that my book was being advertised threw me for such a loop that I wrote a blog about it called Following Diogenes.

Then I walked to the grocery store to buy a copy of the paper so I could see the add for myself.

Now, four years later, I’ve got another ad. This one is in color and features glowing praise from an author who is, if not the biggest name in fantasy today, is at least in the top three.

And today, instead of walking to the store myself, my assistant grabbed me a copy.

It’s not just my assistant, either. One of my *several* assistants. I am now a corporate entity. I can’t do my own taxes anymore. Today I was talking to a friend and when I stopped to count, I realized that I employ nine people. Ten if I count myself.

I mean, what the hell is up with that? What has happened to my life that I now employ myself? I actually write myself a paycheck.

In what world does that make fucking sense? Am I supposed to give myself performance reviews and shit? Should I give myself a stern talking to if I’m late to a meeting with myself? At some point in the future, if I get increasingly insubordinate, will I be forced to fire myself and bring in someone else to do my job?

I know I’m into The Meta and everything, but all of this seems recursive to the point of absurdity.

(Recursive Absurdity would be a good name for a band, by the way….)

What’s my point? Fuck. I don’t know. I don’t mean to imply that I’m not happy with the way my life is going. I know I’m very lucky. I’ve met with more success than I have any right to.

But on the other hand, for someone whose personal philosophy has always been to strive toward simplicity, I seem to be doing kind of a shit job of things.

Gech. I’m rambling. And this blog has gone from fun and informative to something bordering on existential angst. What can I do to bring it up out of a nosedive before the end?

Ah. Of course. I’ll focus on my favorite complication. Little Oot.

Quick story: A couple weeks ago, Oot was nursing after a nap.

Then he stopped nursing, hugged Sarah’s breast, and said, “This is my birthday Christmas boob!”

I swear I didn’t make that up.

Lastly, here’s a picture of Oot wearing a Jayne hat that a fan made for him. The picture is pretty old at this point, but it’s got cuteness in spades….

Rather cunning, don’t ya think?

pat

http://www.blackcoffeepress.net/shop/article_15/PREORDER-Already-Here%3A-Long-Poems-Matt-Bialer.html?shop_param=cid%3D1%26aid%3D15%26
Also posted in book covers, book two, Diogenes, Oot | By Pat51 Responses

My Fictional Nature

It’s strange to me, knowing that if I write a blog, thousands of people will read it. Thousands and thousands. A ridiculous number of people, really.

It was less strange when I wrote the College Survival Guide for the campus paper. With the column, I knew what my job was. I wanted to make people laugh, and maybe, occasionally, slip a bit of reasonable advice to my unsuspecting readership.

Pure advice is unpalatable. It’s preachy. But if you make people laugh a little, they may not notice you’ve slipped them a little bit of truth. And even if they do notice, they’re more likely to forgive you for it.

I was a tiny bit of a local celebrity when I wrote that column for the campus paper. A few hundred people read it every week. On rare occasion people would recognize me as that-guy-who-writes-that-column. Once, the guy delivering a pizza to my house looked at my name on the credit card receipt and said, “Are you THE Pat?”

I laughed. “I didn’t know I’d become superlative,” I said.

I haven’t done the column for a couple years. These days I channel my humor writing into the blog instead. But there’s a difference. Back then I was a little bit famous because people read my column. Now people read my blog because I’m a little bit famous.

There’s more to it than that, of course. People read the blog because it’s amusing, or because they’re interested in news about upcoming projects and appearances. They tune in because they’re curious about book two, or because they’re looking for writing advice.

But mostly, people read the blog because they read my book and were curious about the author.

So I tell stories and post pictures. I screed and opine. I post up little pieces of my life. Then y’all take those pieces, fit them together, and you form an impression of me in your heads.

This is the interesting thing. It’s something I think about a lot. That person you create in your head out of these bits and pieces. That Pat Rothfuss you get to know from the blog, he’s fictional.

(It’s true that you could say the same thing of anyone. You could say that you don’t really *know* any of your friends or family, you just have flawed impressions of them based on your limited perceptions and experience.

This might be true in some small theoretical way, but in a bigger more practical way it’s pure bullshit. You know your friends. Let’s not become hopelessly meta here. If you follow that line of reasoning too far you end up in the pointless philosophical morass of relativistic solipsism.)

Anyway, my point is this: I think about this fictional Pat Rothfuss sometimes. I wonder what he’s like.

I expect in some ways, fictional Pat is pretty much like me. I’m honest to the point of blinding stupidity, and I talk about things here on the blog that any sensible person would keep quiet about. Anyone who’s ever seen me speak in public can attest to the fact that I can’t help but express myself freely and clearly, even if it’s not entirely appropriate.

Still, I can’t deny that I present an edited version of my life on here. The blog lies by omission. I talk about my signings and answer fanmail. I post a cute picture of my baby and talk about the new foreign edition of my book. I link to an interview and do a fundraiser for my favorite charity.

Given all of that, fictional Pat seems to have a pretty swank life. He seems really nice. He seems kinda cool.

And that makes me feel dishonest, because it’s not really true. You’re putting together the fictional me without the grubby bits. The truth is, I am at times a contemptible human being. The truth is, I have deplorable habits.

For example, when I go on Facebook, I post status updates talking about Dr. Horrible. Or I joke about the dream where I ended up in bed with Willow and Spike. I don’t mention what happened the other day with Oot.

You see, right now Oot loves my beard. In terms of desirability, beard ranks #3 in all creation. Boobs hold the top spot, of course, and the telephone is currently a strong #2. But other than that, he loves nothing more than to clutch at my beard.

I think gripping it appeals to some primal, monkey part of him. He gets his sticky little hands tangled up in the beard, and some piece of his primal baby brain thinks: “Good. I’m safe. If we’re attacked by a predator and forced to run to safety, I won’t be left behind.”

The problem is this: if you don’t have a long beard, you have no idea how painful it is to have it pulled. He could swing from my hair from all I care. He’s even managed to kick me square in the junk several times in an ongoing  campaign of sibling prevention. Those pains are nothing by compairison. Having your beard pulled hurts as much as when you’re walking around barefoot in the middle of the night and you stub your little toe really hard against a table-leg.

Usually I’m able to head him off when he grabs for it, but his motor skills have really been developing lately. So the other day, before I know it, he has both drooly little hands in it up to his forearms, then he yanks on it for everything he’s worth.

“Ahhh!” I shout. “Stop it you little fucker!”

Oot doesn’t seem to mind in the least. For all he knows I’ve just called him by one of his other countless names, (Thunderbutt, Prancibald, The Dampener…) He just laughs and tugs the beard some more, happy to be safe from prowling lions and packs of hyenas.

Still, it’s a shitty thing to say to your baby, and I feel bad about it.

The point is this: I suspect that fictional Pat would never refer to his adorable baby as, “you little fucker.” I suspect he’s better than that. I expect he’s a nicer person than I am.

Part of me thinks, even as I write this, “Of course you don’t talk about those things on the blog. Why *would* you? That’s not why people read the blog. You’re supposed to be putting your best foot forward….”

But then I think about that fictional Pat again, and I feel dishonest. There’s a difference between putting your best foot forward and subtly misrepresenting yourself.

The thing is, professionally, I should be careful here on the blog. If I was going to be smart about this, I’d never talk about sex or politics or religion, never make any jokes that could offend anyone, never tell you a story that makes me looks like the idiot I sometimes am. The smart thing for me to do is carefully groom and maintain this fictional Pat and use him as a promotional tool.

But the truth is, the thought of maintaining that sort of professional persona makes me distinctly uncomfortable. Given the choice, I think I’d rather be too honest and have you like me a little less. I’d much prefer to look like a bit of an ass, because… well… I am a bit of an ass.

So tomorrow I think I’ll post up a story of one of the countless times I’ve made an fool of myself in public. Maybe I’ll tell a few of those stories. I don’t know if they’ll help round out the fictional Pat some of you have come to know, but I expect it will make me feel a little bit less like a poser.

Barring that, it should be good for a laugh or two.

See y’all tomorrow….

Pat

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, BJ Hiorns Art, blogging, College Survival Guide, ethical conundra, my beard, Oot, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat112 Responses

Terminal

I’ve done so much flying in this last month that all the airport terminals have blurred together in my memory.

So while I can’t remember exactly where this happened, I know it was down by the baggage claim, relaxing and participating in my second favorite sport: watching people.

It was a slightly out-of-the-way corner of the terminal with a light scattering of folks who were waiting for their luggage too. Standing off to the side was a young mom with a couple little kids in tow.

She was obviously tired, and was doing her best to keep an eye on her kids while at the same time making sure that her luggage wasn’t molested by terrorists, gypsies, communists, or whatever flavor of bad guy homeland security is trying to frighten us with this week.

The kids were having a great time. The little girl was just wandering, staying close to mom and looking at stuff. But the little boy had invented a game. He would build up to a run, then flop down and slide across the smooth floor on his belly.

It was obviously a lot of fun, and adding to his enjoyment was the fact that his mom didn’t want him to do it. She stopped him once, but then he got out of arm’s reach and she couldn’t catch him without leaving her daughter and the luggage behind.

I should make it clear that the baggage claim area was far from bustling. It was quiet, and the kid wasn’t getting in anyone’s way. Neither was he wandering very far afield. He stayed in mom’s line of vision. He wasn’t being naughty, he was just being a kid.

Mom wasn’t being needlessly strident about it, either. She didn’t get all huffy or shriek qt him. And while she wasn’t happy that he wasn’t listening, she didn’t view this as a major challenge to her authority. She was just trying to do her job, which is to say she wanted to keep him from hurting himself, being a nuisance, and getting his clothes dirty.

She tried to corral him as best she could, but he ignored and avoided her, run-flopping all over the place. I was tempted to try it myself. It looked like a good time. However, the square-cube ratio is harsh on adults, and I worried that if I flopped onto the ground, I would rupture something vital in my guts. Plus I expect airport security would have tazered me for being a deviant.

So, because I was living vicariously through his exploits, I was watching him when he flopped harder than he meant to. It wasn’t a bad fall, but he bumped his head a little and lay there for half a second, hurt, angry, and confused. Then started to cry, picked himself up, and ran over to his mom.

Now this is the fulcrum of the story. The point at which it could pivot one way or another. The young mom could have cussed him out. But she didn’t. She didn’t shout or say, “I told you so,” or try to turn it into some sort of moral lesson. She picked him up, hugged him, and nuzzled her face against his head to make him feel better. And it worked.

That’s what moms are for. They give us good advice and we ignore it, running around like tiny Visigoths. Then we fuck up, hurt ourselves, and come running back so that they can make everything okay again.

It was a sweet thing to see. And honestly, it broke my heart.

Some of you know that my mom died not too long ago. I don’t talk about it very much, but the fact is, I think about her all the time.

Whenever I think too hard about it, I become uncertain about what I should or shouldn’t post here on the blog. Generally speaking, when I think something might be of interest to my readers (like an interview, or an appearance at a convention) I post it up. The same is true when I think of a funny story or a good piece of advice.

Part of the reason I haven’t written much about my mom is because I worry it will come across as maudlin, and I assume that people come to the blog to be entertained, not depressed.

On the other hand, if this blog is supposed to be a little window into my life, not writing about her at all feels dishonest. If the things I write here are supposed to reflect my real thoughts and emotions, how can I not mention her?

I get the feeling that I’m going to spend the rest of my life thinking of questions that only she could answer. Like how she kept the rabbits from destroying her garden even though she didn’t use a fence. The truth is, when she died it was like someone burned down a library, cut off one of my legs, and took away half of my laughing. Some days are okay. But other days I don’t know if I’ll ever be smart, or steady, or happy in the same way again.

But the thing I really miss is that she loved me like nobody else ever could. I grew up my whole life surrounded by that constant, unobtrusive, unquestioning affection. It has a lot to do with the sort of person I am today. That doesn’t mean she didn’t call me on my bullshit, or make fun of me, or point out when I was being a dick. But the love was always there, indifferent to my Visigoth behavior. Unconditional.

When you grow up surrounded by something like that, you don’t notice it consciously. It’s like the humidity in the air. You don’t even notice when it’s gone, either, except that something is different. Something isn’t right. Then you start realizing that you’re thirsty all the time, and you can’t figure out why you’re constantly tired, or getting nosebleeds.

Then, eventually, you realize the problem is that the air is too dry. Only then can you take some steps to try and get some moisture back into your life. Only then can you start trying to make adjustments so things can feel, at least a little bit, like they used to.

I think that’s the point I’ve finally reached. I’ve discovered that my life is drier than I’d like, and I’m trying to figure out what I can do about it.

So I think I’m going to start mentioning my mom on here from time to time. Not a lot, probably, but some. It’s a shame you can’t meet her, but I suppose the next best thing is you getting to know her through some stories.

I’ve turned the comments off for today, because I’m not looking for sympathy or consolation. Similarly, if you know me, don’t feel obliged to send me an e-mail, trying to cheer me up and gently dancing around the question of how I’m doing. How am I? I’m fine. Sad? Yes. Melancholy? Sure. But also fine.

I mean it. Few things are as irritating to me as someone trying to cheer me up when I’m in a perfectly good bad mood.

Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll continue spilling out the convention stories that I’ve built up over the last month. Hint: catgirls will be featured prominently.

Fondly,

pat

Also posted in day in the life, mom, the man behind the curtain | By PatLeave a comment

St. Patrick’s day.

I have a warm place in my heart for St. Patrick’s day. When I was in grade school, you got to bring a treat to share with the rest of the class on your birthday. Cookies or brownies or rice-crispy treats.

But my birthday is in July, so I could never bring in treats. I can’t remember why this was so important to me as a kid, but it was.

So my mom, rather than being relieved at having one less chore in her busy life, came up with the idea that I could take cookies to school on St. Patrick’s day, because my name was Patrick. That was the sort of person she was.

So we made sugar cookies shaped like Shamrocks and frosted them with green frosting. I helped. Or at least I remember helping. More likely I tried to help and got in the way instead.

So I got to bring cookies to school once a year, and my standing in kid society was saved.

As I write this, I realize not everyone might have done this at their schools, growing up. Maybe it just happened in my little corner of the sky.

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, just outside Madison. The Town of Burke, unincorporated. Lots of land, not many people.

For most of grade school, I went to the modern equivalent of a one-room schoolhouse called Pumpkin Hollow. No, I’m not kidding. It was called Pumpkin Hollow School.

It had four classrooms, one each for first through forth grades. The entire faculty consisted of four teachers, the aid, and the lunch lady. We borrowed music and art teachers from a bigger school district and they came out to visit us once a week.

I think this small school was a very special thing, though I didn’t realize it back then. We had a really active group of parents that would organize great things for us. We went to see the Nutcracker Ballet every year, and we had little fairs in the springtime with craft booths and little games.

I remember the playground. You’ll never see a playground like it these days. The equipment was good, old-fashioned dangerous, or made out of tires, or both. We had a tire swing. A real one that hung from a high branch, and because the rope was long you could really whip people around on it. We could have killed ourselves, but we didn’t. It was fun. Good lord I miss recess. When did play get squeezed out of our daily curriculum?

It wasn’t a perfect place by any means. I don’t mean to imply that. Even small groups of children can be cruel. There was one girl that everyone said had cooties, and we teased her though I didn’t care and I was her friend anyway. None of the cool guys liked me very much, which sucked.

Ms. Otto, the aid, had strong old-school views about propriety, and she didn’t approve of the boys and girls playing together. We could mingle together on the equipment, or play tag, but we couldn’t cluster together in and make up our own games. A boy who played with the girls was given the worst punishment possible: he was forced to sit on the steps.

I spent a lot of time on the steps. Don’t misunderstand me. I was not a young Casanova. I just preferred the company of girls. Generally speaking, I still do.

Once I brought an old Indian Spearhead to school to show the other kids. It was real, we’d found it when we were digging in the garden. But when I took it out to recess, I showed it to a girl and told her that it was sharp and it could cut her. I wasn’t really threatening her, but I wasn’t exactly *not* threatening her either. I was being tough, and slightly wicked, and I knew it.

The girl told Ms. Otto, and I had to sit on the steps and they took the spearhead away. Later that day, my teacher Miss Anderson gave me a serious talking to and gave me the spearhead back.

That was it. I was deeply ashamed, and I knew deep in my heart that what I’d done was Wrong.

I also felt like I’d dodged a bullet because they hadn’t told my parents. Everything worked out smoothly, and I learned something. These days, they would have called homeland security, put me in therapy, and installed flint detectors on all the school doorways.

It was, everything said, a good place to grow up. It was too small for any severe social stratification. When your entire class is only 18 kids, the cool kids (Like Chad VanEss) still weren’t that much cooler than the uncool kids. And the prettiest girl (Jody Mulcahy) wasn’t that much prettier than the least pretty girl.

They closed Pumpkin Hollow not long after I left. Probably for budget reasons. I drive past it every once in a while when I’m at home. A small business has set up shop in the building, and I always want to stop and ask if I can look around. But I never do.

But in my dreams I go there. Sometimes the school is abandoned as I look around. Sometimes the new owners let me in and I see the old school half-hidden under the renovations. Sometimes I’m with someone, showing them around, saying, “This is the room where we had art class.” “This was Ms. Stewart’s room.” “Everything is so small. How did twenty kids ever play dodge ball here?”

They are melancholy dreams, full of a deep, slow sadness. They always end the same way. After moving from room to room, I lay down on the floor and cry. Not for anything, or about anything. Simply because I am full of sadness, and I miss something that is so long gone that I can no longer remember what it was, or put it into words.

I would give each of you a shamrock cookie today, if I could. But that is beyond me. So instead I wish each of you happiness, joy in the changing of the seasons, dreams free of melancholy, and hope of new friendships on the near horizon.

Fondly,

pat

Also posted in mom, the man behind the curtain | By Pat41 Responses
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