The universe giveth and the universe taketh away. Goat to hero. In the blink of an I. The bat of the lash. And in the end what I'm doing, the things I'm focusing so maniacally on, are so minute and insignificant in the context of the collapse of the Empire, a tragedy dressed as a comedy, starring George W. Bush as a commedia dell'arte Julius Caesar with Cheney and Rove and the rest of the court licking their chops and counting their money while I fiddle about as Rome burns..
Thursday night. September 18. 6 p.m. Barnes & Noble. Albany, New York. I show up after driving 2 1/2 hours with a teething baby. You probably don't remember when you were teething. That's one of the great things about the human mechanism. So many of the horrible things that happen to us, we don't even remember. Like having your teeth come in. It's fucking miserable apparently. My daughter, the happiest baby on any block, is in such pain, whining crying and shrieking. And that's another beautiful thing about evolution. When a baby shrieks, it's the saddest worstest miserablest thing ever. Especially when it's your baby. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you want to tear your ears off. Especially in a car, whipping 70 miles an hour down the freeway.
So we show up at the Barnes & Noble Albany at six o'clock. And it turns out none of my books are there. The community relations manager realizes suddenly that she's forgotten to order any of my books. It's a bad moment for everyone. She looks apologetic, but at the same time like she doesn't want to fully embrace what a mistake she has made. Me, I have a total and complete mental breakdown. No lie. I have the sudden and uncontrollable posttraumaticstressdisorderreactiony desire to punch the Barnes & Noble Albany community relations manager in the nose, I see the whole thing in my head so clearly. My fist smashing into her face, the sound of cracking bone the feeling of my knuckles breaking the flesh flooding blood I am overcome. Unconsciously I put my head in my hands and close my eyes. Deep cleansing breath. I force myself to walk away. Just walk away. Walk away. Walk. Away. I want to scream and shout spout obscenities let the invectives roar and pour out of me. It was all I could do to stop myself from primally unleashing the demons, letting the dragon blast a ball of fire. Instead I grabbed my trusty iPhone and I called my publisher and I left a mentally ill message, dropping f-bombs front back and center, it's kind of embarrassing as I write it down now. I was so clearly taking out my frustration at my inability to make a dent in the world with my new book. I've put so much effort into all this. From the living, to the writing, to the promoting. I sent out so many e-mails for this particular event in Albany, because I was afraid nobody would show up. And I've been begging my publisher to help me out on this tour. They have zero budget to pay for any of this stuff. It's all me out of my pocket. And not just money, helping me to get media, to get reviews, making the phone calls on the effort and putting in the work necessary for success. Making all the phone calls to set up the event. Getting it put in the listings of local newspapers and websites. The one thing they agreed to do, my publisher, is to get books to the places where I have events. And the community relations manager claims she never got any kind of communication from my publisher. So it was a massive clusterfuck, and it was me who was getting clusterfucked. Oh, you should've heard this message I left on my publisher's machine. It was filthy. Psychotic. You would seriously worry that this person who left this message was a danger to himself and others. In retrospect I realize it could've been worse. It only lasted for about maybe 15 seconds. I could have literally gone on indefinitely. Actually, in retrospect I was very restrained. Compared to the tempest that was reaching inside of me. And the person I used to be.
Disaster. Catastrophe. Calamity. Six people showed up. And 2 of them came late and left early. No one introduced us from Barnes & Noble. Someone said there was an announcement made, but I never heard it. I made a conscious decision whilst having a little soup before the event, that I was going to enjoy myself. This was my mantra. Enjoy yourself it's later than you think. And the nice thing about a small turnout, is that once you feel the Let Go, as my dear dead mom used to say, if you just accept it, it can be very liberating, because you just don't care anymore, and you can be your true self, natural and spontaneous. And that's what happened. I was blessed with an amazing panelist. Jeff Berman, a Distinguished Professor from the University at Albany, who wrote a memoir about his wife dying. He's also an expert on death and dying and memoir actually. He read some from his book. It was beautiful. So sad. And he was so eloquent talking about the process of writing the book, as a way of working through his grief. And the issues of privacy and family, he has two daughters, and one of them said, Dad, I can understand why you'd want to write the book, but why do you have to publish it? Well, Jeff said, a writer wants people to read what he's written. Simple and true he was such a thoughtful, learned, articulate man. So full of emotion and passion. So the event itself was fantastic. I only wish that I had performed some. I thought the people there were interested in information about their own memoirs. But I should've performed. Just a little something. It would've been fun. Anyway, the point is actually I had a blast doing the event. Arielle was fantastic as always, she gives great panel. She always has interesting things to say, just one of the things I love about her. Again, the idea of making a beginning, a middle, and an end out of your life, which is in many ways a seemingly random series of events, that doesn't really end until you die. But that can't be the end of your memoir. You dying. That's one of the keys to having a successful memoir. You have to have a very interesting life with strange, comic, and hopefully horrifying things happening to you. And you have to not die. I guess really, that's the most important part. The not dying part. Which brings us back to Jeff Berman. I just love it that going up to Albany and doing this event brought me in touch with this amazing man. I feel very lucky and honored to have shared a podium with him. But there is a Bitterness to the Sweet. Because it was in front of six people. 2 of whom came late and left early. I just know that there are so many people in that area of the world who are fascinated by this topic and desperately want to write their memoirs. But I was almost completely unable to track down any of them.
So when the event was over, I was torn between the Dark and the Light. Light: I managed to put together a really unique, fascinating, thought provoking, funny, sad, entertaining, informative event. I really concentrated on absorbing and reveling in joy and pride. Reliving it in my mind, remembering how much fun I had, how interested I was, how much it excited my mind to be engaged in this intellectual discourse. Dark: I utterly failed. I didn't sell one single copy of my new book. Then the accumulation of all of my failure, the weight of the enormous exhausting effort and time I put into getting people to read my book, sits like a fat sumo on my face. Because writers want people to read their book. Time after time I was pulled down into the Dark. And I would consciously pull myself back. I told Arielle, I said, I am discouraged. She was so nice. She's such a kind person. I drink from her top of human kindness so much every day and I'm afraid I take it for granted. This is one of the wonderful things about writing down the stuff that happens to you in your life. You realize things. So tomorrow I'm going to do something really nice for Arielle. You have my word on that. And I did find that saying it out loud helped. I am discouraged. It released some of the Heaviness. In days of yore, I would've done something massively self-destructive and possibly inflicted severe damage on those who love me. But not now. I kept going back to the joy I had that night. And what a wonderful life I have. It helps to have a kid. It really does. Olive really does have a lust for life, and it's contagious. She is a fountain of love, and tonight bathe in her grace every day.
I was so tired. As I laid me down to sleep, I could not help it, the Dark called my name over and over loud, loud our loudest. Nothing ever works out for me, the universe has it in for me, why does all this horrible shit always happen to me? My tour is going to be a pathetic pitiful failure. No one's going to show up. No one is going to read my book. I'm not going to be able to sell my next book. What the fuck am I doing with my life? I'm 51 years old and it's just not happening for me. It never happens for me. I'm just as good as everyone else, why do they all get the breaks I don't? My brain would spin out in this posttraumaticstressdisordery shame spiral, in the past I would have gotten up, gotten in a car and driven somewhere and did something harm to myself and others. But I very consciously stopped myself. I kept grabbing at the Light and holding on for dear life.
And I had a flash of understanding so profound and deep that the words I used to describe it pale in significance to the power of connecting to the life force that connects all living things and seeing a simple truth so clearly. And this is what I saw when the window opened. We do create Heaven or Hell for ourselves right here on Earth, minute by minute by minute. I have had too much hell. I want more heaven. And I do have a wonderful life. People who love me. Work that I find fascinating. My job is to write things and talk about them. What a life I'm leading. This little girl who loves me so much and who I love with more heart and soul and I even knew I had. I went to sleep happy.
I did feel discouraged when I woke up though. Blue. Black. Dark. I got up and went to check my e-mail. There it was. An invitation from the 92nd St Y, one of the great meccas of the New York literary world. They wanted me to appear in a memoir event, which I'd suggest to them about three weeks ago. I had tracked down Philip Lopate and Katherine Harrison, and they both wanted to do the art of the memoir of event at the Strand. But they were both teaching that night. I worked so hard to track both of them down. You have no idea. But they were so generous and nice. So then I went to the 92nd St Y. people. The guys I spoke with was very responsive and receptive. He told me to e-mail him the idea. Which I did. He said it was a labyrinthine organization, that he didn't know where it would in up. Now mind you, when I got the idea to approach the 92nd St Y., I told Arielle about it. She scoffed. Yes, that's right ladies and gentlemen, she scoffed. She said I would never get to do an event there cuz they are the crème de la crème, the toppermost of the poppermost the best and the brightest. So I said, You want to bet? We bet a fancy dinner. Now she owes me a fancy dinner. Get a load of the lineup. Katherine Harrison, David Carr, Philip Lopate, Leonard Lopate. And me. Immediately this Sesame Street song sprang into my mind, "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong." That would be me. The thing that doesn't belong in this group. And I don't mean that in terms of skill or ability mind you. I've spent so long developing my shit, I believe my game is world-class at this point. But if you compare how many books these people have sold with how many I've sold, or how many people have listened to Lenny Lopate, I mean my god, he is The Man in New York for books, has been for years, I am just so much further down the food chain the pecking order the totem pole.
So now I was elated. And I saw that my frustration and anger was so misspent. That's not who I want to be. Frustrated angry dude. And again, I was struck by how small and insignificant were my travails and woes, with all the madness going on in the world, the collapse of these huge money machines, the terrible threat of this deceiving, Karl Rove embracing, hypocritical lunatic John McCain and his Alaskan Lady Macbeth Mean Girl. And I went downstairs and there was Olive, so happy to see me, almost giddy with excitement, I swear to God, no female in my life has ever been that happy to see me on such a consistent basis, well my heart swelled with the joy and the rapture, simple, deep, no drugs or sex or illicit potentially life threatening mayhem involved, just me and my beautiful girl, clapping her hands eyes sparkling and shining, chanting, "Da da da da da..."
Next stop: the Strand, September 22, Monday night. Rocking New York City. Because if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
Well, that's my two cents worth, and with inflation, I owe you one.
Causes David Sterry Supports
Sex Worker Rights