Garbage

I’ve decided that I like moving. Moving is good. I should do it once a year, every year, for the rest of my life if at all possible. The thing that happens if you stay someplace for too long, like, for more than a year, things start piling up. You get comfortable somewhere, you start shoving things in nooks and crannies and then you shove some more stuff in there, and then one day you have to move, and you realize that you have more garbage that’s accumulated in your house than you have actual stuff to take with you. I think it would be a neat experiment some time to just go ahead and rent TWO moving trucks, and you get em well in advance, or maybe you just take an extraordinarily long time packing them up, but either way, you set aside one for all the stuff you’re taking with you, all the things that have to go to your new home, and the other one, you load up with the garbage, all the stuff that’s been in the nooks for god knows how long and just see which one fills up first. If you had the money, it really wouldn’t be such a bad experiment, because what you could do is just drive the one with all the trash in it to the dump or wherever you might take refuse.

Today I went to check the mail and there was GQ, just a couple weeks past due it seems. I always thought I remember GQ coming in about middle of the month before the first of the cover. Y’know, so if I was expecting the May issue, typically it would show up no later than the 15th of April. Here it is the 24th, and while I said that that was past due, I guess it’s not really not that far past, even if the 15th was the deadline.

I also got two rejection letters: one I already knew about (it was from the insurance company), one I was confused about, because it looked like one of my envelopes addressed to me and with stamps that I have. Then I remembered, I had to send a self-addressed envelope along with BLENDER when I sent it to New York last month. (I can’t believe that was only last month, but it was, it was the week or so after I got home from spring break that I sent it out.) So anyway, the text of the letter from SciFi?.com is:

“Thank you for sending your story to SCI FICTION. I’m afraid we don’t feel we can use it for our website. Sorry.

“Sincerely, Ellen Datlow”

But that’s fine, it’s not a big deal at all. This place I sent it, it was like swinging for the fences on the first pitch, y’know? I mean, twenty cents a word, they were willing to pay twenty cents for every damn word and I thought, hey, that would be super-killer if it worked out, but it didn’t so now I just print out another copy and I mail it to the next one on my list. I decided I’m going to keep the rejection letter, though. I kept the rejections I got from the universities last year, and I decided I’m going to keep any I get from any publication where I send any story I write, until one of those publications picks it up, and then once I get successful at this writing bullshit, like once I really don’t have to have another full-time job (I mean, I’m not a complete fool, I know that to just be a writer and do nothing else you really have to do extremely well) then maybe I’ll go ahead and mail all the rejection letters back, I dunno, with, like, a copy of my bank statement that has all the deposits of my royalty checks on it. Of course I would black out the numbers first, because, as we’ve established, I am not a complete fool.

OK, and so this Ellen woman was silly enough to put her e-mail address on this letter, which I’m sure she didn’t type, fold, sign, look at, or anything like that at all, I mean, I’m sure she has plenty of nothing going on all day, and isn’t that the real goal in any industry? Think about it, seriously, any line of work you get into, what happens is, the better you get at something, the more success you have, the less you actually have to do it. The people putting in the most time? They’re the ones who suck the most at it, which is really strange if you think about it.

But anyway my point is that I wrote Ellen an e-mail, thanking her for looking at the story in spite of non-acceptance. And here’s another thing I just thought of: this woman is probably high enough up the ladder where she doesn’t even have to read these stories that come in, there must be like, a whole gaggle of interns that do that sort of thing. And even if they’re not interns, if they’re people who have been doing it for quite a while now, even still, people send in their work, and even if its a subconscious thing, which I’m sure it is, a person’s mood is completely going to affect how they read a story, whether or not they really like it. And so, you have to wonder, maybe there are a lot of really talented people who got put off because a few people who, like, I dunno, had to yell at their kid that morning, or clean up a mess the dog made in the house, or maybe they were just short on time, and the boss is breathing down their neck, asking them, “When are you gonna be done with that stack of manuscripts??” and so they just say, “Oh, here, I’m done with these, they all suck,” and that’s that? Maybe that happens more than it doesn’t. God knows I passed judgment without giving a fair shake to quite a few bands who had CD’s sent to me when I was the music director at WRST. God knows that.

And here’s *another* thing I just thought of: all those records that I quasi-listened to, I would put them on, and I’d listen to maybe the first 10 or 20 seconds of each track, then I would blow by it, like, if your song hadn’t grabbed me in the first 20 seconds, forget about it, next song, and for every song that I breezed past, that would make me just a little less likely to give a fair shake to the following song. And it worked in reverse, too: if you had cool songs at the beginning of the CD, and I thought they were cool, I would let you slide on some inevitably shittier songs that would come later on. It’s just sort of the nature of the beast.

I guess that’s also why, when you’re looking for a job, whatever, it’s not so much what you know, it’s who you know, that’s always been true and I think it always will be. Like, everyone is a lot more predisposed to doing things and making concessions for things and people that they have a more favorable opinion of already. So, like I said, good songs at the start, shitty songs later forgiven. Good start to a story, better odds of someone getting all the way through it. Maybe the start of BLENDER just isn’t strong enough. To be honest, it’s kind of cliche at the beginning, wouldn’t you say? Maybe there’s some way I could spice up the start, I’m a fairly bright fellow.

I am bright, y’know that? I was thinking about this this morning as well, I was thinking that I should’ve stayed more committed, interested, devoted, however you wanna say it, but the point is I should’ve tried harder at math and science and crap like that all along. Yeah, I was better at the touchy-feely froofy crap like English and History, and all that sort of shit, but if I just would’ve applied myself, I could’ve probably done better and done more in the scientific sort of departments. I might actually be working now if I’d done that. As it stands, I didn’t, and I’m not saying that I’m going to sit around lamenting the choices I’ve made, but a little reflection and some regret is not a bad thing. My little sister said to me once that it’s not good to have regrets. But I thing she was as wrong about that as anyone could be about anything (and this is not to say that Christy’s not smart, she definitely is, but when she said that, I think she was 17, and what does anyone who’s 17 really know about anything?). Of course you should regret things. This came up in one of my classes in the last few weeks.

Regret is one of the things that makes us human. Regret, the way I see it, is just the act of looking back and realizing that things could be different. It’s realizing that choices exist and people make them, but at the same time they could’ve decided just the opposite, and because of that, a whole different world might’ve unfolded. If we were perfectly content with all our decisions, if we never saw cause for looking back and considering the possibilities of things that might’ve been, well, then we’d be no different than this goddamn computer that I’m typing on.

But I’m just going to press on, and I’m going to keep writing, and I’m going to send BLENDER to a couple other places, now that I know the best place I possibly could’ve sent it doesn’t want it.

And I’m also going to start packing, it’s never too early for getting on top of that, and why ever settle in too much, since you’re probably going to have to move again anyway? I’m going to go back home, and I’m not afraid or embarrassed to say that my grandpa is one of the reasons I’m going. ONE OF, not THE reason, it’s one of. There are other ones, and make no mistake, I did what I could out here, but if I was meant to stay I’d be staying. Thing is, you don’t have to run away from places where lots of people care about you, even if you’re not feeling 100% all the time. You don’t absolutely have to stay, either, and this is one of the strange things about being alive, you’re not really bound absolutely to anything, anyplace, anyone, at any time. It’s all up to you, every step of the way, but if you *feel* binds to any of these things, and these binds draw you in particular directions, then that’s nothing to feel bad about, and it’s not like you’re not in control. Because you’re always in control, all of the time. The only thing you can ever do is what feels best and most right at this moment.

I feel like if I’m going to stop writing now, I should make the end somehow important and memorable, but I’m not precisely sure how to do that. I’m thinking of Mr. Bates now, and how much things have changed since I was 15, 16 years old and I got so riled up studying for a test that I got down on all fours, and pressed my forehead to the floor, and I crawled around the room moaning, and I know it wasn’t caffeine, because I wasn’t drinking coffee yet. It’s really something to be so moved by outside stimuli. Think of that. That’s memorable, isn’t it?

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