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Live Blogging Weirdness.

Talisker. In Seattle.


Today I had my directorial debut.

I directed my little sister's deathbed statement to her two-year-old daughter.

We used two cameras. Amateur equipment. Both cameras mounted on tripods. One was a straight-on shot, a medium close-up. The other was the basic three-quarter shot, a sort of profile that shows enough face to reveal expression. My Dad was on camera two. Her father. My stepfather, actually. The old soldier, the Vietnam Vet, bearded now, occasionally confused because of the tiny strokes, and still thin as a rail at 70 and looking nothing at all like me. Filming his daughter's last will and testament under the direction of his cold-blooded step-son who he never, ever, not even once called anything other than "son."

Uh oh. There we go. Sudden waterworks, tears in my eyes. But then, what the fuck, I am about half drunk and I'm a sentimental drunk.

We're not close, my sister and me. I'm desperately close to my wife and kids but that uses up all the emotion that's in me. To others I'm polite, I'm considerate, I'm occasionally kind and even generous, but I don't invest.

Interesting word choice, M: invest, eh? Invest. Perfect.

I limit my exposure like a good investor. I won't expose myself to hits I can't take. Limit the risk. My exposed flanks are my wife, my kids, I will not accept more.

Why yes, I am rambling, aren't I? Sorry.

So. Backstory. I cut myself off from my fucked-up family. For a long time. From all of them. Like I was placing them under quarantine because I am very, very good at protecting myself. And because I did, I'm the happy one. I'm the well-adjusted one. Our mother? Three out of her three kids refuse to have contact with her. But I did it first, and most completely. My sisters did it too late.

And then I re-emerged from obscurity and lo, I was the successful one, and lo, I was the happy one. (How fucked up is the family where I'm the well-adjusted one?) Then my sister had a baby although her marriage is a mess and she's a mess but okay, people have babies in less than optimal circumstances, I did. Then she got cancer. Reproductive. Then lung. Then bone. A rare sarcoma.

Bone cancer. You know what that means? If you do then your face just went gray and you drew back from the computer screen.

The usual treatments failed. Today, before the film, she had some radiation. Thursday she goes into the hospital for the last-ditch chemo, the chemo that is so fucking awful they test you to see if your heart can survive it and you stay four days in the hospital. That chemo.

Her husband got her a gift certificate for a day at the spa. She got a $200 haircut. Looks good. Looked good for the video. Thursday it falls out.

We did call and response for the video today. I would ask her questions, she would answer in such a way that we could edit out the questions and make it look like a spontaneous statement. "Tell me what you enjoyed in life." "Are you scared?" "Do you worry that your daughter will be angry at you for leaving her?"

When we were done filming I got out. A lame excuse about being jet-lagged. (I'm sorry, did I forget to mention that I'm in Seattle?) I drove my Hertz Infiniti M, using the Hertz Neverlost back to the lush boutique Hotel 1000, and talked to my wife and talked to my kids and went downstairs to dinner.

Because I'm alone for dinner I brought a book. I brought Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Infidel." I am about halfway through it. I'm at the part where she's at the Somalia border walking past starving women with starving babies.

While reading Hirsi Ali I'm enjoyed the f0llowing: 1) a "Wall Street," which is a cocktail involving bourbon, walnut liqueur and egg whites, 2) a glass of Chardonnay, 3) an amuse bouche of dungeness crab and creme fraiche, 4) a baby vegetable salad with truffle-scented vinagrette, 5) a glass of pinot noir, 6) a lovely entree of medium-rare venison over chestnuts, carmelized shallots and Brussels sprouts.

Now I've moved over to the fire-lit lounge across from the restaurant. I'm drinking Talisker, neat. I have Ayan Hirsi Ali and my sister and the venison in my head and not sure how to make sense of it all. I have a book deal. I have the boutique hotel. I have the meal. I have the possible movie deal, and the documentary filming in Europe coming up soon, and the loving family and my sister has rage and loss and morphine-drip pain and her heartbreakingly beautiful daughter has a life without a mommy and hey, in Somalia and a hundred other hopelessly fucked up places they have starvation and despair and everything I have feels stolen and yet pop a blood vessel in my brain and everything I have goes away.

No wonder people believe in God. Life is so unfair, so cruel sometimes you need someone to blame, or someone to submit to, or someone who at very least can make some kind of sense of it.

I just ordered another Scotch. I toast to starving children. I toast to my sister. They should have used a tad more truffle oil in the salad.

Tomorrow I fly home. My kids will run to me and hug me and yell, "Daddy!"

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“Live Blogging Weirdness.”

  1. Blogger reader_iam Says:

    Oh Tak. Oh Tak.

    Can't say what I want to say; certainly wouldn't say it here anyway.

    I know ... a bit about ... just a corner or two of what you're talking about. I'll leave it at that, except to rue the way that life, in its sloppiness, has a way of disconcertingly revealing itself in drips and leaks, just where and when we don't want it to.

  2. Blogger reader_iam Says:

    Shorter version: This post made me cry, and in a way I won't soon forget.

    I wish I could make it better for you.

  3. Blogger Tom Strong Says:

    In the last year, I got married, and received a great and unexpected scholarship. Over the same time my dad had his voicebox removed, in a last-ditch effort to stall the cancer he's been fighting for the last two and a half years.

    So, yeah.

    You, and your family, have my best wishes.

  4. Blogger Annie Says:

    No investment, all right. But the way you call her "my little sister" broke my heart.

    The God that you unbelieve in loves some people more. Plays favorites. It's not fair. You made everything you have, but as we once discussed, somehow you were equipped to do so. There's guilt in being fortunate and happy -- you too can say "Why me?" -- and also vulnerability: you seem to have so much to lose, so far to fall.

    Then there's a special subset of this, which I don't know firsthand but know exists, that has to do with extremely fucked-up families. They produce two, no, three kinds of people: casualties, perpetrators, and survivors. The survivors are extraordinarily tough, self-protective and determined. They refused to be sacrificed, ensnared and drained. They Got Out and they're not getting into anything like that ever again. You might feel guilty about that, but if one more family member, you, had been sacrificed to misery, it wouldn't have redeemed the others. It would have been a total waste. So, GOOD FOR YOU, by God.

  5. Blogger SippicanCottage Says:

    Bad.

    Good to assemble those sheets of cast iron depressing words with the rivets showing.

    It's just plain bad, and I'm sorry to hear it.

    Your friend in the swamp.

  6. Blogger Melinda Says:

    You made everything you have, but as we once discussed, somehow you were equipped to do so.

    Yeah, what Annie said.

    And I have some idea of what you're going through with your sister and your family, and guilt. I'm going through something similar with my husband. Only without the particular heartbreak of leaving behind a very young child.

  7. Anonymous GN Says:

    Strange how ancillary connections that we keep at bay always bring us back to share pain and the analysis of our "cover" ... as if our survial skills and survival somehow make us unworthy of sorrow. Not so, you have the right to be insulated and to care simultaneously. Period!

    OTOH, you must realize that you are truly a writer because it took a considerably long post for you to tell us that you are ...bewildered. Stay tough!

  8. Blogger Howlin' Hobbit Says:

    Man. Since I found your first blog I always wished you'd appear in my hometown so we could maybe enjoy a drink, a cigar and some conversation.

    And you were here (or maybe still are here) and it was for a totally fucked up situation.

    I have no words that would make it better, much as I wish I did. Let me just echo the "stay tough" sentiment.

  9. Blogger Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    Shit, man. I wish I could be profound like Annie. Wish I could be uplifting. But all I can say is the old Irish words: I'm sorry for your troubles. I really am.

  10. Blogger Bo Steed Says:

    I know you didn't write this to be "well written," but it was well written.

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