Forgetting, To Remember

History isn’t written in an instant. We’d like to think so, these days. Best Something EVER, we’ll say about a performance, or a film, or a t-shirt. (More likely, WORST ever, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

South Padre Island, September 19, 2001

In the realm of Instant Gratification and Flash Judgment, fourteen years seems like an eternity.

In the vast majority of the remembrances around 11 September 2001, folks tend to gravitate towards where they were that morning. What they were doing. How they heard. My memories of that time are stronger two weeks later, when I traveled to South Padre Island to meet a group of friends from around the country, on a vacation we planned long before the world changed.

The preceding week, there was a ferry that crashed into a bridge that allowed supplies to be trucked into the island. That, coupled with the lateness of the season and the limited air travel, effectively meant our group of 20 were some of the only tourists on the island. Midway through the week, we piled into one of the only bars that was open to watch George W. Bush deliver an address to a joint session of Congress. He spoke that night of the American resolve, our determination to not be defined by what happened on that day, but what will happen next.

It was almost a foregone conclusion, at that point, that we would be going to war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The future, past that, was a mystery.

What we knew at that point was the NEVER FORGET drum was being pounded, even then. How could we not? Every single thing we saw was American flags, and honoring those who fell, and the early responders, and that massive fireball, over and over.

There was something else that I saw, and made special note of. We were all walking around in a daze, for weeks. Socked in the face, nose bloodied – sure.

However, we also took the time to remember that we needed to be kind to each other. All of us. Everyone was affected in some small way, and some much, much larger. We held each other a little tighter. Made a point to call loved ones, just to see how they were doing.

Where did that go?

It’s easy to blame technology for making it so much easier to stay inside, stay insulated, not get involved other than clicking a Donate Now! button for our favorite causes. Fine. Selfies are the downfall of America. Or, you can blame reality TV – we’d rather live lives vicariously through families and groups of friends with full camera crews trained on them 24/7, and doesn’t it make you feel better about yourself that you arent so self-absorbed and tragically redneck or posh and bereft of scruples?

Rather, I look at our installed fear of outside, and weep.

Outside. Past our front door, past our front lawn. Neighborhoods exist in name and HOAs alone. Once we rolled up the American flags we bought after the stores re-opened on 12 September, we never bothered to look back down the block only to make sure our lawn was slightly better cared for than the folks living next to us. Past that, the guy living the next street over well, who knows who that is? Might be an illegal alien. Could be a sexual predator. Might be a jihadist. Its better to stay at home, and see who the next American Idol is. Safer.

We’ll never forget what happened on 11 September, but why did we forget about what happened on 12 September? That was the America full of possibilities. Strong. Indivisible. Capable of anything.

That’s what we lost. Thats what we forgot. We didn’t lose it when the World Trade Center towers fell. We lost it when the trillions of paper cuts became too much to bear.

45 Things I’ve Learned In 44 Years

1. Not all love is unrequited.

2. Things will happen in your life that you will never be able to explain. You can either chalk it up to the Universe being whimsical, or you can go mad chasing that rabbit down the hole.

3. Not all of the memories of your childhood are real.

4. The advice you get from your parents and grandparents is all rooted in their sincere wish to see you not make the same mistakes they made. You will ignore this advice, naturally.

5. Sadly, clothing is a punishment. Clothing worn in Grade School, doubly so.

6. Everyone looks awkward in Grade School. Even the kids you thought were perfect look at their grade school photographs and cringe in complete terror.

7. You will only see STAR WARS for the first time once. Every time afterwards, the experience pales in comparison.

8. If youre lucky, you will make a handful of friends in school that you will be able to stay in touch with later in life.  If youre really, sincerely lucky, those will be people you will want to remain in touch with.

9. Tornadoes in Texas are real. They are astonishingly frightening. You will need to remember this not only when youre a child, but when your jackass friends from out of state are enamored with seeing one up close.

10. Watching where youre walking isnt quite important as looking ahead to what youre walking towards.

11. The first time you get punched in the face is a singular experience. Its one of the few instances where time completely stops, and you can evaluate

12. Sometimes, that note you get in class saying youre cute isnt a cruel joke. Sometimes, they mean it.

13. Theres a moment when youre not a kid anymore. You will not know it when it hits, youll blow right by it, and wonder where it went. That moment is when you are able to breeze past the candy aisle in the grocery store without freezing in your tracks.

14. Forces of nature should not be explained.

15. God is not out to get you. She is, however, out to get the person behind you. You had best learn how to duck.

16. You get what you pay for, unless its tacos. Then you get more.

17. When you dance at your high school graduation party, or your prom, its one hundred percent okay to let it all hang out. Just dont complain when the eventual video of that dancing surfaces.

18. Savor your moments of triumph when they come. Take notes. Get pictures when its feasible.

19. Spontaneous road trips will be the ones you remember the most.

20. First kisses are a force of nature.

21. Pack light.

22. Never turn down an invitation to a toga party.

23. Life is too short for bad beer, lousy music, or basic cable. You get what you pay for.

24. If a total stranger offers you a blow job, dont be coy.

25. Walking on the grass releases oxygen, which makes the world a better place to live in. So, when you have an opportunity to walk on the grass, take it.

26. You can sleep when youre dead.

27. Not everyone likes karaoke. Not everyone likes hockey. Not everyone likes soccer. This is all fine. However, I simply cant abide by people who do not enjoy baseball. They are not to be trusted.

28. Dont be afraid to tell your friends what they need to know, regardless of how much it hurts. If you dont, they will never hear it.

29. You can drive from Dallas to Los Angeles in less than 24 hours.

30. The fewer details you have in your alibi, the better it will go over.

31. Learn which things you really need to keep, and how to throw things away.

32. Baby carriages, in the wrong hands, are instruments of evil.

33. You cant control what people think about you, so just be who you want to be. If they cant catch up, or dont want to, screw em.

34. Learn how to say goodbye.

35. Dont delay joy.

36. Not everyone appreciates being corrected on their grammar.

37. There are few things that enrich your soul quite like making your wife laugh deeply, and for many minutes continuously.

38. Take a look at your circle of friends, right now. The ones whom you see when you close your eyes? Those are the ones youll have forever.

39. Bacon is a force of nature.

40. You are not defined by your bar argument stances. Kirk vs Picard. Mac vs Windows. Analog vs Digital. Those yammering points dont make you who you are. Theyre bumper stickers on your arse.

41. Absinthe is not to be trifled with. Conversely: when people find out you drink absinthe, their opinion of you changes subtly.

42. Occasionally, its okay to like a bad film.

43. Friends are a force of nature. Not acquaintances. Not colleagues. Friends.

44. Just because you saw something written as a quote on top of a picture on the Web, doesnt mean its accurate. At all. At all.

45. You have two families in your life: the one youre born into, and the one that you acquire along the way. I have been extremely lucky with both.

Don’t We All?

I keep going back to the Doctor Who episode (reboot Series Six, ep four) ‘The Doctor’s Wife.’ Its Neil Gaiman’s writing, which would make me happy regardless. However, there’s one bit of dialogue between Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill that I simply love. It encompasses Smith’s tenure as The Doctor:

Rory: So as soon as the TARDIS is refueled we go, yeah?
The Doctor: No! There are Time Lords here. I heard them and they need me.
Amy: But you told me about your people and you told me what you did.
The Doctor: Yes, yes. But if theyre like The Corsair theyre good ones and I can save them.
Amy: And then tell them you destroyed all the others?
The Doctor: I can explain. Tell them why I had to.
Amy: You want to be forgiven.
The Doctor: …don’t we all?

There’s so much pain in that one line from Smith. So much promise. People who dont like Smith’s run as Eleven just dont get that line.

All that said: I think it speaks to me because I want to be forgiven as well. I know the pain I’ve caused people over the years. Everything I do now, I do because I want to be a better person. Better than what I was, when I was a rampaging heathen in my twenties.

Look. I know I’ve held on to a lot of grief, and guilt. Longer than I probably should have. But I know that there are a lot of people I owe apologies to. I’ve tried to make things right, but I will never be able to shake the feeling that I can do more. I can fix things. I can use the voice I have, loud and ringing, to fix things.

If I can explain things, can I be forgiven? Religious dogma aside, can someone like me find peace when there was so much callous behavior in the past?

Here’s where another piece of sci-fi comes to the forefront of my memory: Ivanovas piece from (close to) the end of Sleeping In Light:

Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations. There would never be another. It changed the future and it changed us. It taught us that we have to create the future or others will do it for us. It showed us that we have to care for one another, because if we don’t, who will? And that true strength sometimes comes from the most unlikely places. Mostly, though, I think it gave us hope, that there can always be new beginnings. Even for people like us.

I’ve had a new beginning. Being with Manda, knowing our future will always be intertwined, has given me hope. I’m 43 years old, and I’m only now realizing my adult life is underway. I still have my friends from 20 years ago, and through all of the bumps, bruises and horrifying choices, we’re still alive and raging against the dying of the light.

What I think I’m trying to say, now, is I will always hope that I can be forgiven for my past but I’m not chained to it. My adventure continues.

Idris: Whats wrong?
The Doctor: It cant hold the charge. It cant even start. Theres no power. Ive got nothing.
Idris: Oh, my beautiful idiot. You have what you’ve always had. You’ve got me.

An Open Letter To Myself

Hey, Devin:

It’s New Years Eve, here. I hope you’re well. Actually, I hope for a lot more than that. In the next year, you’ll have a lot of big challenges, and I have a few ideas on how to meet them and come away as a stronger, healthier and happier person:

Don’t give up. The job market still sucks, but you can find the place where you fit in, and will be able to get back to speed financially. You are not a failure. Stop beating yourself up, and know that Manda understands you are doing everything you can to keep afloat.

Pace yourself. Youve got a lot on your radar in 2014: finishing your film, producing the Dallas Comic-Con after-parties, and all the while getting back on track professionally. Understand that you can’t do everything at once. When things start to click – and they will – it’ll all happen at the same time (its just Murphys Law). Don’t get overwhelmed, and don’t kill yourself.

You have very little problem expressing your love and affection for others. It’s high time you started allowing some of that back. Just because you accept a compliment without a self-deprecating remark, or a negative retort, doesn’t mean youre a narcissist. It’s okay for people to actually like you. Let it in.

Reach out to your friends more. Going weeks, or longer, without talking with the Amigos simply is not cool. Just because they click a Like on your status updates means they know what’s going on. Mix in a phone call as well. Schedule a night out.

Do not take Manda for granted. She loves you, dude. That may be the most amazing thing in all of creation. Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t make things harder than they need to be. Treat every day with her like the gift that it is.

If you’re not working on something, put down the laptop and the phone. Get your head out of screens. Be more present. There’s a life happening out here.

That’s about it. As much as 2013 was a beast to navigate, it was a pretty wonderful year as well. 2014 will be just as trying. Gird your loins, and you’ll see that it’ll be pretty amazing, if you make it that way.

Goodnight, Isis

Finally out of the old apartment, after a long night of steam cleaning, throwing away stuff that neither of us had used in years, and one Queen Amidala standee bequeathed to our former next-door neighbor, who turned 21 last night. How that thing will be defiled, I don’t even think I want to know, but at least it’ll have a new home.

When I think I’m going to be fine and not miss Isis anymore, I see her on the sink, pawing at the air where it looks like she’s waving at me. She and I had more than a few adventures together, and the thought of her not in my life is pretty hard to bear.

The doctor said she had gone into renal failure, which didn’t surprise the doc with her health. Isis had always teetered on the edge of anemia and/or thyroid problems, but had never been on the side that had required treament, or even preventative medicine. I had no clue anything was wrong until Friday morning, and she tried to get up from the patch of grass which she had been sleeping in. She could barely stand, and when she tried to move, her legs couldn’t move in the confident rhythm that she always exhibited. One of her eyes had sunken in just a bit, and she looked ghastly and frail.

The vet told me in no uncertain terms that I could easily throw thousands of dollars towards her care, and even still she would be in considerable pain. With a decline as short and sharp as Isis’ had been, there was almost certainly no way she could come back. There was no coercion on the vet’s part, but I knew what she was suggesting.

I wailed, and didn’t stop for some time. The vet left us alone to say goodbye, after I held a pen and signed something that resembled my signature saying that I authorized her euthanasia.

I held her, and for the first time since we had been together she didn’t try to sqiurm out of my arms. She probably didn’t have the strength, but I like to think that she knew. Knew that I loved her so fucking much, and this would be the last time I would see her.

I thought about the first time I met her. My roommate at the time had rescued her from an animal shelter and brought her home. He named her Isis, after the cat from the Assignment: Earth episode of ‘Star Trek.’ I didn’t think a cat was such a good idea at the time, since I was going through chemo and he was bouncing between jobs. Two weeks later, he moved out without warning, leaving this nervous cat who cowered under my futon downstairs and barely came out to eat. I assumed that she was mine to take care of from here on out.

The next week, I came back from a chemo session, sick and tired and wanting to shrivel up in a ball and die. Isis came out from under the futon and curled up next to my side and started purring. This would begin a long trend of Isis knowing, somehow, that I was sick and needed a good strong purr to make me feel better. She was now my Lil’ Ma’am.

She was never a playful cat, in the usual sense. She loved catnip, but would never bat the toys around or whatnot — just lick the toys or eat the ground leaves, get stoned, and stare across the room.

However, she would get very loud when she wanted to be fed. In later years, my ex Lisa said that she was preparing a couple of boneless chicken breasts for dinner. Isis jumped up on the kitchen counter (uncommon, since she was usually quite well-behaved) and grabbed a chicken breast, dragging it to a corner of the living room. When Lisa tried to retrieve it, Isis growled at her, something she never ever did. Lisa told me later that she said to Isis, Fine, Gal. You want it that bad, have at it. Isis proceeded to eat the whole thing.

The vet came to take Isis to the back. In true Isis fashion, she sank two claws in my shirt when the vet tried to take her out of my arms. She let out a little peep. I told her I loved her, and always would. Then, she was gone.

I cried until I was dry, then did it some more. I was totally numb, and in some ways I still am. The crying has stopped for the most part (at least, until I try to write something about her), but I still ache. Probably will for a long time, and it’s not because I want to, but because I can’t help it.

Rose — thank Goddess for Rose — got my attention because she asked me, Do you think that she would still be alive if you loved her more? Of course I do. She needed to live forever, and always be there for me. Never mind that the vet said there was nothing I could have possibly done to save her. I don’t believe it. She deserved to outlive me.

Don’t think I’ll get another cat for a while. Don’t really want one. I already had the best one.