“Even at age twelve I could tell that Jimmy Carter was an honest man trying to address complicated issues and Ronald Reagan was a brilcreemed salesman telling people what they wanted to hear. I secretly wept on the stairs the night he was elected President, because I understood that the kind of shitheads I had to listen to in the cafeteria grew up to become voters, and won. I spent the eight years he was in office living in one of those science-fiction movies where everyone is taken over by aliens—I was appalled by how stupid and mean-spirited and repulsive the world was becoming while everyone else in America seemed to agree that things were finally exactly as they should be. The Washington Press corps was so enamored of his down-to-earth charm that they never checked his facts, but if you watched his face when it was at rest, when he wasn’t performing for anyone, you could see him for what he really was—a black-eyed, slit-mouthed, lizard-faced old son-of-a-bitch. He was a bad actor, an informer for McCarthy, and a hired front man for a gang of Texas oilmen, fundamentalist dingbats, and right-wing psychotics out of Dr. Strangelove. He put a genial face on chauvanism, callousness, and greed, and made people feel good about being bigots again. He likened Central American death squads to our founding fathers and called the Taliban “freedom fighters.” His legacy includes the dismantling of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the final dirty win of Management over Labor, the outsourcing of America’s manufacturing base, the embezzlement of almost all the country’s wealth by 1% of its citizens, the scapegoating of the poor and black, the War on Drugs, the eviction of schizophrenics into the streets, AIDS, acid rain, Iran-Contra, and, let’s not forget, the corpses of two hundred forty United States Marines. He moved the center of political discourse in this country to somewhere in between Richard Nixon and Augusto Pinochet. He believed in astrology and Armageddon and didn’t know the difference between history and movies; his stories were lies and his jokes were scripted. He was the triumph of image over truth, paving the way for even more vapid spokesmodels like George W. Bush. He was, as everyone agrees, exactly what he appeared to be—nothing. He made me ashamed to be an American. If there was any justice in this world his Presidential Library would contain nothing but boys’ adventure books and bad cowboy movies, and the only things named after him would be shopping malls and Potter’s Fields. Let the earth where he is buried be seeded with salt.”
I have this problem where ‘the other day’ for me ranges from yesterday to around 5 years ago
and ‘a friend of mine’ is literally anybody i’ve ever heard of who’s opinion i like
So I am a consummate fibber when I tell stories — I’m not a liar, they are usually true stories, but I smudge the facts when need be to make a more interesting story, which is why I write fiction and why I’m uninterested in being a journalist. (The one exception to this rule are my dispatches from the public sector stories: I swear to God I am not fibbing about those,
Anyway, these are hallmarks of my fibbing. “The other day,” “a friend of mine,” anything that is vague and unspecific but grounded enough that it sounds plausible, I employ without prejudice in my earnest attempt to be a dishonest but hopefully entertaining storyteller.
When I was a kid I hated going into the storage room in our basement. It wasn’t “finished,” which is the upper middle class way of saying it was just a cement floor and drywall. It was big and not well lit. I’d have to go in there to get dog food sometimes, but I would always run out quickly, not afraid of what might be lurking in the darkness so much as I was uncomfortable being surrounded by all the empty space. Even now, as an adult, when I’m downstairs at my parents’ house I quietly shut the doors to the storage room and act like the finished part of the basement, with the carpeting and the warm lighting and the television and the furniture, is all there is.
In some ways, living on my own is a little like living in the storage room. There are things I don’t like to do. Whenever I close the medicine cabinet in my bathroom, I look down at the sink so I don’t have to see the mirror swing shut, because I’ve watched enough horror movies to know that’s when the disfigured ghost is going to show up. I’m a sucker for those shock value scares. When I go upstairs for the night and turn all the lights in my living room off, I run up the stairs, as if I can beat the darkness.
It’s silly. I know it is, I know it’s irrational and I’m not actually frightened. But in a lot of ways I still feel like I’m only here by myself temporarily, that Mom and Dad will be home any minute. This is also why I make my bed every day, even though my parents aren’t planning on visiting any time soon. I keep my kitchen that much cleaner for the same reason.
But I like it. I like that it’s quiet when I want it to be, and loud when I want it to be. I like that there are never any surprises — if the dishes are still in the dishwasher, it’s because my lazy ass didn’t take care of them. I like coming home and knowing this place is mine in a way that no place has ever felt.
I like that I have an office to write in and I like that I can eat at my dining room table if I feel like it. I like that things get dirty more slowly when it’s just me using them.
I like it a lot more than I thought I would, and I thought I’d like it a lot.
Alas, I am out of beer.