I pulled four-word phrases from Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, and found this amazing poem hidden inside the self-help guide:
Maneuvers in heavy weather
the next new pleasure has to be bigger,
lasting satisfaction or cries for
more, and more.
Last too long? Too…most significant and seductive
up and down in it,
what Pascal called licking,
going to and fro,
more exciting, with a bigger…
quietly, slowly, imperceptibly expanding
circle of influence
with a ground-swell of magnificent
How he worked on the inner circle.
“Love her,” I replied. “Love is a verb.”
Love – the feeling – is a fruit of love.
So love her. Serve her a greater
You just can’t imagine the ability
Live like animals, out, this map
doesn’t describe the territory.
Rats, monkeys, pigeons, dogs,
to use a computer metaphor
the egg is pure gold, tremendous
gravity, pull, the lunar voyage
of Apollo 11, superlatives such as “fantastic”
I know they can be broken.
It’s sometimes a painful process.
Click here for a video about the first time I did it.
I guess I can tell you what happened in the stock room now that TMZ broke the story with that video:
This was at the end of last summer. 2015. The start of August. When everything was happening all at once.
Selena came into the room. Selena Gomez. She walked right past the shipping crates. I knew it was her right away. I’d seen a lot of girls come and go during my time writing speeches for THE Donald, but I’d never seen anybody like Selena Gomez, and I didn’t have to Google her name to verify that it was actually her. Plus, she’s that pretty in real life. She looks exactly like she does in her Vevo videos, reminding me of a cross between a young mountain lion and a big-eyed, cartoon Disney princess.
I was hiding out in a back corner, trying to figure out how to fix the latest of what we – on the team – liked to call “straight shooter issues.” I’d already dealt with on-air cursing, off-color debate comments, and – during the last two days – some sticky misogynistic moments. Also, I was trying to spin the persistent rumor that if THE Donald had only invested the “small 9 million-dollar loan” from his father, and had not worked at all, not a single day in his entire adult life, he’d actually be a lot richer than he is now. The problem with this inheritance/investment issue was that I’d done the research…and the financial analysts were correct. Also, the math was so simple that the average 7th-grader could do it.
Thankfully, American voters don’t want to do any math – not even 7th-grade math – so I just needed to twist a few financial facts, declare a bit of “liberal Dem bias,” throw in a red herring or two, add a sprinkle of Ad Hominem against Hillary, and a smooth little non sequitur to get on to a better topic.
Anyway, I was working on solving the inheritance problem, making it go away like everything else.
But Selena Gomez came into the room and I stopped working. She stood right there in the middle of the stockroom. She seemed like the kind of girl who stands in the middle of a room – no wallflower, is probably used to standing in the middle of every room she ever enters – so she was right there where I could see her. But she couldn’t see me because she was looking at her cell phone. Then – still looking at her phone – she turned, and her back was to me.
I was kind of hemmed into a corner, halfway hidden behind two shipping crates, sitting on the floor, leaning back against the sheetrock, my laptop resting on my legs. These are the kinds of places I go whenever THE Donald says something really, really ridiculous. I like to work in some small, backroom sort of place where I know I won’t be disturbed. So even if Selena turned around again, she might not’ve seen me in my slunk-down, half-hidden position.
I knew that I had a long day of research and speech writing. This was also right before Roger Stone quit our team (or, sorry, was “fired” by THE Donald), and it was also the time period when the Fox News anchors were mad about a few things, and I hadn’t even told Roger where I’d be. But he didn’t care as long as I showed up at the end of the day with a clear sound bite, a solid Tweet, and a full-length speech. That was what I needed to keep my job. It was a complicated summer but just like that it was also a very simple summer. The expectations were clear: Make THE Donald look like a titan of industry with at least the political acumen of a Bush brother. We knew that’d be enough to win the GOP nomination and maybe even the entire presidency.
Anyway, Selena was standing in the middle of the room, her back to me, her head bowed to her phone like she was praying, and I had a little time to look her over. I noticed that she was dressed up, too dressed up for the middle of the day, standing in the middle of a stock room in this part of town. She had on a little black cocktail dress, black heels, a small black purse in her left hand, and her hair was pulled up. I could tell that she wanted to look good, and the truth was, she did. Plus, she smelled good. Her vanilla perfume had already permeated the room, making it so I couldn’t focus on the laptop in front of me.
I was watching Selena as she watched her phone, and that was when THE Donald came in. Roger walked in with him and said, “Twenty minutes. That’s all,” and THE Donald gave him a pouty face before adjusting the front of his hairpiece. Then Roger left.
Selena put her phone away, tucked it into that little black purse.
THE Donald said, “Don’t put your phone away. I love the things you’ve been sending me.”
Selena said, “You like the pics?”
“Oh yeah, I like those a LOT!” THE Donald enjoyed emphasizing the last word in most of his sentences, something I’d learned to use all-caps for or a series of exclamation points when I wrote his speeches.
Selena said, “But I heard that you don’t like Mexicans.” She moved her hips a little when she said that, like she was dancing to some kind of music that no one could hear, and I’m sure she got THE Donald’s attention with her little shimmy and shake.
He stepped closer to her. “I would make a Mexican exception for YOU.”
Selena touched the lapel on his suit. “You would do that for me?”
“Without a doubt. You’re such a cute little…” THE Donald touched the tip of her nose, “…foreigner.”
Selena said, “You really think I’m cute?”
“Of course I do.”
Selena tipped her head to the side, and made a sad face. “’Cute’ is something Justin never called me. I tried every trick I knew, but he only thinks…” She stopped.
“Thinks what? You can tell me. My friends say that I’m a great LISTENER.”
“Well,” she said, “Justin just thinks…well, he just thinks prostitutes are cute.”
“That’s CRAZY!” THE Donald said. “You’re cuter than most prostitutes I’ve ever been with.”
“Oh, Donald, say that again.”
“You really ARE. And that’s the kind of TRUTH Obama is always afraid to say, the real truth. The difficult and obvious TRUTH!!!”
Selena started playing with THE Donald’s tie. She was sliding her fingers up and down the stripes, slow and smooth. She said, “I’ve been wanting to see you in private.”
“That’s normal. A lot of people want to see me in private. I’m a wealthy guy and my time is limited. But, of course, I want to see you in private too. There’s something I’ve been thinking about for us. It’s a big idea. World-CHANGING.”
I’d been listening this whole time – even taking notes on my laptop – but now I leaned forward to make sure that I didn’t miss a single word. I was scared of whatever THE Donald was about to say, scared for Selena, scared a little bit for her, but even more scared for me.
` We – on the team – tried to limit the total number of ideas THE Donald was allowed to come up with each week. Roger was always telling him, “This is a one idea week, okay. That’s all we can handle right now. One.” Then he’d hold up a single finger for emphasis and THE Donald would look like a kindergartener who’d been sent to the corner by the teacher. He would lower his eyebrows and push his lips out. His hair would slide forward and flap a little bit on top, and I wanted to tell him to never make that face around the media but unfortunately I’d seen him make that face almost every single day I’d been with his campaign.
But THE Donald wasn’t making that face now. Right now, he looked happy. Or to be more accurate, he looked excited. Selena was still rubbing his tie and he had this big, wide-eyed look on his face as if Roger were allowing him a TEN-idea week. THE Donald leaned in to Selena, his face close to hers, and said, in a stage-whisper, “Run with me.”
“What?” she said.
“Run with me. Be my vice PRESIDENT!”
“Could I?” she said. “I mean, would people really think that I was…”
“Qualified?” he said. “Yes, of course. You’re FAMOUS.”
“Oh, that’s all you need to be?”
“Obviously. That’s all anyone needs to be ANYTHING in this country. We could be famous TOGETHER!!!”
“As running mates?”
“As lovers AND as running mates. Plus, you’d solve my Mexican problem!”
“Oh my god,” she said. “That is so sweet.”
“I know, see? Megyn Kelly was wrong. I really can be sweet to women.”
Selena pulled THE Donald’s face down and kissed him. Then she said, “Be sweet to me, Donald.”
He kissed her, then stopped and smelled her hair. “I’ll treat you better than Ivana.”
“No one, Sweetie. Shhh…” THE Donald put his finger to Selena’s lips.
Then they kissed some more, and THE Donald’s hair shifted a couple of inches to the right.
Selena pulled back. “Wait, I thought I heard that the vice president has to be 35 years old, or something like that.”
“Is that a RULE?!” THE Donald tipped his head back, held his hair, and laughed. “I don’t follow rules. That’s why I’m a breath of fresh air in this election. That’s why I’m something DIFFERENT. That’s why I’m going to WIN!”
“Oh, Donald,” Selena said, “hold me like Justin never did.”
THE Donald’s hands roamed down her body, and he whispered, “You know I will.”
…and the rest of what I saw, I probably shouldn’t describe.
Anyway, TMZ has that grainy video footage that – thank god – I’m not visible in.
Later that day – after a double-highball at a nearby bar to get rid of some lingering images in my mind, then two shots of espresso to clear my head – I came up with the following pieces of promotional material.
The Sound Bite:
Donald Trump has announced his running mate…
None other than the incomparable Selena Gomez.
The Tweet for @realDonaldTrump:
I love Mexicans so much that I’m sleeping with one AND running with one AS WELL!!!
Plus, I wrote the speech that day, THE speech, the one that most people are saying will win Donald Trump the presidency of the United States.
I’m writing for The Huffington Post again (after a three year break). Here’s my new piece on censorship:
Our local weekly paper has a section in the back called “I Saw You,” a personal section where hopeful romantics (translation: lonely sex addicts) talk about brief meetings with strangers in which “eye contact was made” or “there was an instant spark.”
My friends Jackson and Carrie and I wrote our own I Saw You entries yesterday – recognizing that a proper I Saw You is a form of love poetry that often includes mixed metaphors, obvious innuendo, bad spelling, a mention of an animal or two, romantic drug references, all-caps, over-use of ellipses, and/or insider lingo.
Since today, March 21st, is World Poetry Day, here are the four I Saw You entries I wrote – all devastatingly beautiful works of eternal and epic art:
1. I saw U, naughty HOTTIE…under the Ferry Street Bridge, wearing a Cheetos t-shirt and blue pants…like a cheetah having sex with the sky…or an orangitang on a ferris wheel…and our eyes MET, blazing into the afternoon and I want to blaze weed with U…and maybe MORE? I’ll be at the skate park tomorrow 6 til midnight (Sat & Sun also) wearing an orange beanie. U wont ragret it.
2. I met U on the COD chatroom last nite and I was the one who said DONT call her a pussy bitch just cuz shes a NOOB-girl and U said “thats the sweetest thing anyones ever said about me”…Anyway, we should plan a LAN party some nite when my moms not home and it’ll be like we have so much bandwidth and our thumbs’ll get sore from all the action (if you get what I mean) and – trust me – my controllers way bigger than average (wink wink) and I’ll carjack your body all nite – GTA style – and electricity will run thru our hook-ups (if you know what I mean)…check the forum tonight at 2AM SHARP.
3. I saw you coming out of the Windemere Real Estate office on March 1st as I was going in…and you looked me up and down…and I know what that means… and you need to KNOW that I sell a lot of real estate…and I want you to KNOW that I would sell…your body…to mine…TONIGHT…like a kitten to milk, so picture my warm tongue everywhere in your bowl. Leave a return message at Windemere’s front desk?
4. We were both paddling the duck pond last week and we past each other and sparks flew off the ends of our paddles, and my eyes said, “I’m a pirate lassy and I’ll be your booty”…and your eyes said, “I’ll put U to my sword – my lady – make U walk my plank all nite”…and I’m all about exploring your seven seas…going to your promised land – so HAPPY returns – sailor – if you email me at…firstname.lastname@example.org
As my old poetry professor Dorianne Luax said, “It’s difficult to read when you’re writing.” And the novelist Seth Kantner told me that he always gets the writer’s voice in his head and has trouble creating anything that’s truly his own – the worst being anything by Annie Proulx because she’s too good.
So as I was writing my new novel this summer, a novel that is nowhere near ready or good in its current draft form, I’ve tried to read varied, talented writers, writers that might inspire me with their voices, imagery, plot, or narrative arcs.
I’ve mostly written this summer, but these are the books that I’ve read and a few reactions:
– After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell
– The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
– Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter
– The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
– The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
– Ablutions: Notes on a Novel by Patrick deWitt
– Collected Stories – Flannery O’Connor
– Sartoris by William Faulkner
– The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin
– Northline by Willy Vlautin
Notes and short rants on these books in no particular order –
First, Willy Vlautin is the real deal. When reviewers say he’s like the secret love child of Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver, they’re not exaggerating. He’s that good. Gritty, honest, and true. Every character feels real. And his books are full of sad hope.
After You’d Gone is so complex structurally that I wonder how O’Farrell put it together. The story is rich and textured, the characters believable in all their human failings. I loved this book.
On Sartoris: I have to stop reading minor works by major writers. Faulkner in As I Lay Dying is incredible. Faulkner in his minor “potboilers” is atrocious. Sartoris has so many adverbs, it’s like a creative writing class joke assignment.
I’ll admit that I read The Virgin Suicides with (as the editor/agent Betsy Lerner calls) the author’s competitive reading spirit. The Virgin Suicides earned two starred reviews as a debut novel. I wanted to earn two starred reviews for my debut novel. But the comparisons stopped there. Eugenides’ novel was brilliant and scary satire and my novel Graphic the Valley is neither.
While I read The Bell Jar, I remembered reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac. These books should not be read out of their time period because more is expected of contemporary writers than novelists of the middle 20th century. Kerouac’s writing on jazz makes me want to throw up as does Plath’s over-dramatization and championing of a real-life struggle with depression. While Plath’s imagery is still beautiful, she repeats images in a way that would get a modern novelist rejected by a discerning editor. This novel does not stand up to her incredible poetry, or to time.
Pale Horse, Pale Rider is three short novels put together, and the second is the best. I wondered if Porter influenced Hemingway’s career. They had to have read each other, and I like to imagine Ernest on a hunting trip, sitting by the fire, leaning back and reading Porter, thinking, “Damn, she’s pretty good.”
I can’t wait for Patrick deWitt’s next novel. If it’s anything like The Sisters Brothers, I’ll read it in a day. Ablutions was dark and short but when the narrator swallows his own rotten tooth, I laughed out loud. deWitt has the rare ability to make his reader laugh at anything.
The Art of Fielding is one of those long first novels that you never want to end. Harbach makes the reader care about each character, each person’s desire, and the addictions that we justify.
Finally, have you ever heard of Flannery O’Connor? Yeah, you have? David Sedaris once wrote that he would love to iron her clothes while she sat and told him stories. I feel the same way.