“Your first deadline’s tomorrow. I want to see eight thousand words. Printable words. I still remember that essay you wrote when the Beast got elected. I do not want to see the word ‘fuck’ typed eight thousand times again.”
- Royce, issue #1, Transmetropolitan
If you put a gun to my head and asked me where I see myself working, it would be the Kane County Chronicle.
It was a small suburban daily, and a lousy one, where I had what my meager career can call a start.
It was the best experience of my life.
I learned from Brenda Schory, Tom Schlueter, Chris Nelson, Greg Rivara, learned alongside Dan Campana, Kelley Casino, Nick Swedberg, Paul Johnson, Kartikay Mehrotra, Kate Thayer and other names you don’t know but if the world were good, you would.
When I left, among the gifts I got was a trade paperback collection of the first few issues of a comic book called Transmetropolitan. I still know who was behind it (thanks, Laura) but it remains the perfect gift.
It’s the comic book tale of a hard-ass gonzo journalist called Spider Jerusalem in the future. It’s Hunter Thompson among aliens, ray guns and a political landscape that seemed satirical in the 1990s.
Spider was supposed to write the column alluded to in the quote above, but he’s fictional.
In an earlier version of this story, I wrote the words. All eight thousand f-bombs over and over again, interspersed with the vignettes below.
I woke up this morning and realized that was tacky, crass, all the things I didn’t want to be but that the world seems to reward. I apologize to anyone who read the earlier version.
We can do better. The only question is if we will.
I never thought much of the guys downstairs.
They were too white bread, too bro-ey, too handsome and bound for success to meet my approval.
“My girlfriend is a Pakistani Muslim immigrant,” he said, pulling a drag off a thick, full smoke.
It was well after midnight. I was coming in. He was wearing a The John Marshall Law School sweater designed to look like ugly Christmas gear.
He didn’t know what would happen. He didn’t know what she could do. He didn’t know if any promises on visas or colleges would matter.
He hadn’t smoked in months, he said.
I love a woman more than air.
I haven’t written about her much because since this blog started, I wrote about another woman a bit and, well, that didn’t end well.
I wanted this relationship to be clean, pure, untainted by my desire for online recognition.
She’s the one, y’know? Always and forever.
“It’s OK,” she said as I walked her to her car from the watch party that didn’t turn out as light-hearted and fun as promised. “I’m Jewish. I’m used to being rounded up.”
“What kind of a world did we bring you into?” my mother texted.
A friend and I had a falling out a few months back. We both knew it was stupid at the time, or at least I can vouch I did. But we’re both proud men so we let it linger.
Last night we hugged and said we loved each other.
It wasn’t a win, or even prompted by this. We made up as much as proud men can a monthish ago.
It was just a recognition that we were united in loss, and that as two hetero cis white men, no loss we experience to this will be a fraction of others’.
I called out to a guy on the street “Are you ready for the Apocalypse?”
He was black. He smiled and nodded, already knowing what I was talking about.
Spider Jerusalem and his bleak-for-the-1990s vision of the future are fiction.
There are no ray guns, aliens or populace who will turn on a candidate once lies are revealed. The next four, maybe eight and definitely 20, 30, 40 depending on his Supreme Court picks years are a reality no teleporter or space station can fix.
We’re left. And we fight.
I call for hope because I have no other choice. I can’t not hope. It’s not in my makeup.
I tried to comfort my mother. She said I was sweet, dear. I called my sister to comfort but fear I made things worse. I joked with my friends and right now as I sit with a laptop and a pot of herbal tea at a quarter to four a.m. I want to tell the woman I love more than air that it will be OK but it won’t. It isn’t.
My future brother-in-law is disabled. My friends are gay, trans, of color, women or cis white men, only the latter of which will be just fine.
I’ll be just fine because of the color of my skin and the content of my package.
Transmetropolitan never accounted for that.
We’re left. And we fight.
Every move, we question. Every oppression of non-popular religions, we fight back on. We protest, we rally, we scream and cry and, yeah, probably nothing will change.
But we comfort ourselves that progress is a tide and our president-elect (god it sickens me to write that) is a backwash eddy.
In the press, we get as hard-ass as Spider or Hunter. We don’t surrender. We don’t give ground because the truth is a thing, despite indicators otherwise.
It’s late or early, depending on how you reckon. I’ve got to go to work in a bit.
I had planned for a slice of life on gay bars’ reactions to a Hillary win.
The next few thousand words, before I took them out, weren’t mine. They were alluded to in a throwaway joke about Spider Jerusalem.
But for the next few years, I can’t tell the difference between those words and mine.