by Alex Lemon, January 1, 2010 9:00 AM
Happy New Year! Sending all of you love.
Have a Nice Trip
Being clear minded, we called all the haters,
Ordered pizza, & from the attic, with flat
champagne, pretended to be why nots.
Time came to wind our watches, because.
We do what we’re told.
But the best part was tearing apart stuffed animals—
being caught between indecision & fuzz.
It was so much easier, so we lay in the garden,
kissing the suffering while we stroked.
Somewhere was dancing.
Somewhere was crash.
The white tulips were sneaky.
You touched me this tattoo.
Gold & whispers.
Whispers & gold.
That day, we were the best game never invented
by Alex Lemon, December 31, 2009 10:14 AM
Happy Birthday, Pops! Love you!
Best of My 2009
(Not everything here was released in 2009. I experienced them in 2009.)
Field Notes on Democracy
The Forever War
Reading Novalis in Montana
Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing
The Ticking Is the Bomb (an advance copy)
There was an accident in the kitchen. And though the picture is terrible, you can get the idea. There was madness in the kitchen. I picked up the baking dish without hot pads. I could not use my hands for a week. When the blisters popped, the pockets of skin caught gusts of wind like tiny kites or parachutes. The wind blew and my hands fluttered up from my sides, above my head, like Hallelujah!
"Back from the Slums" by Raekwon
"Decapote" by La Patere Rose
"Eleanor Put Your Boots On" by Franz Ferdinand
"I'll Dream Alone" by The Magnetic Fields
"Black Like Me" by Spoon
"I Can See the Pines are Dancing" by AA Bondy
"I Love You and Buddha Too" by Mason Jennings
"Coochie" by Blakroc
Collection of Chewed Bubble Gum
Mine (May-August, assorted Orbit)
Poem to Read Aloud
"I Love Karate" by Nick Twemlow, appeared in Jubilat 15.
Speaking of Faith
Slate's Hang Up and Listen
Slate's Cultural Gabfest
Jordan, Jesse, GO!
WTF with Marc Maron
Stones Throw Podcast
Tie: On December 4: Thick, multigrain bread. Muenster cheese. Spicy sprouts. Roasted red pepper hummus. A Zorro of mayo.
Sometime the first week of the semester, the week before Labor Day: One tortilla. Two organic eggs. Two links of veggie sausage, torn apart. Assorted cheeses, smoked something or other. Sprouts. Red cabbage. Home grown tomatoes. Cucumber. A Zorro of mayo.
Look at the big, Texas-sized eyes on it. (August
by Alex Lemon, December 30, 2009 12:09 PM
I was going to talk more about memoir and creative nonfiction today, but I'm incredibly sad. Vic Chesnutt died on Christmas. He was just 45. Chesnutt had been in a coma from an apparent overdose of muscle relaxers which may or may not have been a suicide attempt. In an NPR interview he said he'd attempted suicide before, but it "didn't take." He'd been in a wheelchair since a car accident when he was 18. In 27 years, he released 17 albums.
My best friend Casey introduced me to Vic's music when I was 18. Casey lived two doors down in Dayton Hall. His roommate, Damien, always seemed to be lying in the top bunk of their stacked beds. They had measured wrong and the top mattress was too close to the ceiling; you couldn't sit up without smashing your head. But Damien didn't care. Like he was sleeping in a coffin, he hardly moved. Just sang Tom Waits songs and, now and again, talked about ideas he had for plays.
I stole About to Choke from Casey's room a week or so after he'd played it for me. The music, the real poetry of it, was so strange, so unnerving to me at the time, that, after a few listens, I shelved it.
When my world started unraveling, my days spinning with sickness and backdropped with depression and substances, I found it again. I listened to it daily, and though it was raw-throated, hurt-voiced music, it comforted me.
In the following years, I saw Vic play at First Avenue a number of times. I listened to his albums on buses and road trips. Casey and I talked about music and art and Vic's albums as we built snow forts on Macalester College's Shaw Field, and we'd fuck around, throwing snowballs at strangers or just sitting there bullshitting until he drifted away, and later those nights, long after my girlfriend went to bed, my insomnia would take me out to the fort where I'd lie in the bright white darkness. I listened to Vic Chesnutt's albums as I peeled oranges in the freezing cold. I listened to his tunes on airplanes. I listened on the beach in Miami, two days before I was supposed to have brain surgery.
On December 4, I had planned to go see Vic Chesnutt play at Hailey's in Denton, Texas. Two days before that, I realized I couldn't
by Alex Lemon, December 29, 2009 10:30 AM
I have nystagmus
and chronic pain
, and I can tell that I'm nervous and excited that my new book is out today because all of my regular, day-to-day symptoms are worse.
In 1997, when I was 19 years old, I suffered my first brain bleed. A vascular malformation in the pons of my brainstem had leaked: my vision bounced, I fell to my right, my face felt numb. Because the malformation was deep in my brainstem, and the neurologists thought another brain bleed wasn't likely, they recommended not doing anything about it. So I didn't do anything about it, and when I returned to Macalester College, I pretended that everything was fine and covered up my depression, anxiety, and self-loathing by partying. Everyone called me "Happy."
I more or less started to lose my mind, and in moments of clarity, I had to face what I saw myself as: a dying monster. I carried the legacy of childhood sexual abuse and a Sisyphusian fear: of harming someone, of my body failing, of pretty much everything. I was 19 years old and to make it though the days I had to detach from reality.
I started sketching ideas for Happy in 2004, when I was in graduate school at the University of Minnesota but the shape of the narrative didn't crystallize until 2006. I've been working on it since.
I know some sensibilities will be offended by the book — it can be raw — but whether a jock or artist or deadbeat or hipster or academic all-star or whatever — more young men use alcohol and drugs and suffer from mental illness than many people think. It has less to do with one's thought about what "good" and "bad" kids do or say and the often-dismissed reality of how many young people live.
In the end, Happy is much more than a story about medical trauma, or addiction, or brain surgery during hurricanes. It is a love story. It is a story about a mother and a son. A son who learns how to love himself and, for the first time, truly feel his mother's unending love.
by Alex Lemon, December 28, 2009 11:47 AM
Greetings, Powell's People —
I hope this missive finds you well. My name is Alex (Hi, Alex.) and I am this week's blogger. Thank you to the wonderful folks at Powell's for this opportunity. I've spent many an hour haunting the Portland store while visiting all of the lovely Oregon folks I know.
Before I tell you a bit about myself, I want to admit that I'm afraid that there is no one out there, that this calendar/blogging time is the digital epistolary equivalent of the tweenis. Tell me I'm wrong.
I'm the author of four books. Happy: A Memoir, which will be published tomorrow and the poetry collections Mosquito (Tin House Books), Hallelujah Blackout (Milkweed Editions), and the forthcoming Fancy Beasts. Here is an excerpt from Happy. (Yes, that google-eyed picture still freaks me out.) Here is a poem from Mosquito. Here is a poem from Hallelujah Blackout. Here is a poem from Fancy Beasts. (The poem is in the text box on the third page of the slideshow.) I live in Fort Worth, Texas, with my wife, who is writing a monograph about blood on the early modern stage. When I'm not teaching at TCU, reading (What, you ask? This, I say), writing, or jogging, I like to spend time looking for hummingbirds, bending coat hangers, and gluing bottles together and listening to music (Right now: Andrew Broder). While working on a number of prose projects and a collection of poems that are in dialogue with Emerson's essay on Beauty, I write reviews and essays and a monthly column for InDigest.
This is where I write.
For you — a gift.
This week, on this here blog, you may or may not find: money, thoughts on Happy, falafel, red cabbage, end-of-year lists, to-do lists, end-of-decade lists, what-to-do-with-your-life lists, the poetics of Mike Tyson, Faith Run, Anne Carson, excerpts from my brain, reflections on influences and admirations, and a photo essay of my t-shirts. But if anyone is out there — hello, hello! — and you want a say in this fake democracy, please drop me a note @ [email protected].
Thank you for being here.