With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
It was 2001. I had written a short story two years before and considered good enough to share with others. In that time, as now, there weren’t many “others” to share my words with. I tried to be selective with what I shared my family, I was private. That left few people.
A bar I frequented weekly-
Ha. Don’t I sound like the dandy? Ah yes, well, the Alchemist and Barrister, er hmm, it was a bar I visited frequently, I, uh, I had some good friends there. Yes.
Please. It was practically the only socialization I did at that time. And on Tuesday nights at the A&B I lived it to the hilt, from 7pm ‘til closing…
Sure, I also ate there as well. But mainly…
I drank. My favored drink at the time. Fuller’s ESB. Five or six every Tuesday.
I got to know the denizens of this Princeton bar and grew close to one guy in particular. Let’s call him Mark. He was several years older than me and our discussions often had the edge of older brother patronization.
I talked art with him all the time. And I couldn’t wait to share this story with him.
Masochism becomes me. Even now it lingers. Before the A&B, there was an evening in the family home, the son proudly carrying a seven-page pheasant in his mouth, feathers protruding, expectantly plopping it in front of his father. The gentle constructive suggestion by the father. The tears coming from the son who would never measure up. I just wanted you to like what I wrote. I know, Andy.
Andy the dog, ever carrying the pheasant, wishing for approval and wide open to the eventual pain.
You haven’t read enough. That’s what Mark said. Said gently as well, already seeing inside my body, watching my heart break.
It was ultimately good advice but I didn’t understand it at the time. In fact, I only this year had a revelation.
Thank you, Hilton Als and Sarah Schulman.
I have long appreciated Als’ theater reviews in The New Yorker. His new book of essays, White Girls hotly anticipated.
Of course, White Girls, an inspiration. Als bravely seeking truth over trying to pleasing others. Defiant and unapologetic.
I am late to the Schulman party, only recently discovering Rat Bohemia, After Delores and People in Trouble. And now stepping where angels fear to tread. The Palestinian question.