Archive for June, 2010

Things I Don’t Understand

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 30, 2010 by sethdellinger

1.  Watermelon
2.  Moustaches
3.  Sweaters
4.  Fareed Zakaria
5.  Walkie-Talkie cell phones
6.  Hopscotch
7.  Picks left in afros
8.  Flat paint
9.  Shoehorns
10. Leather jackets

This Blog Entry is Definitely Not It

Posted in Memoir, Prose with tags , , , , , on June 29, 2010 by sethdellinger

Something you already know about me:  I used to drink every day and I was a miserable human being.  Pathetic, really, in a lot of ways.  This story, like many I’ve told, starts back then.  But this one is only half about me.

You might not like the me that is in this story very much.

I don’t know where I officially lived at the time, if in fact I officially lived anywhere.  I spent alot of time at my mom’s small Dillsburg apartment (which I’m convinced, to this day, is still set up exactly how she left it, just waiting for me to drop by, watch some DVDs, eat some leftover lasagna from the fridge), where I had a tiny bedroom in the back which I shared with a multitude of big plastic bins filled with Beanie Babies.  I liked this room.

When I was staying at my mom’s, I’d often be up all night, drunk as humanly possible, and addicted to my newest form of escape:  the internet.  I don’t need to tell you the kind of horrible, immoral things a depressed  horny alcoholic misanthrope can get up to on the internet, especially when the tool is rather new to him.  Sure, sometimes it was Pearl Jam message boards.  Other times, it was more than that.

One night, in an especially deep alcoholic stupor, I was perusing some very adult chat rooms.  I have no clear recollection of how my relationship with her formed–what we said, how we started talking.  No memory of it.  But I know that we somehow had a nice enough chat to exchange e-mails.  This was before cell phones, and giving out home phone numbers over the internet was a very big step.  So for a few weeks, we e-mailed, chatted when possible.  I even wrote a poem about her (quite horrible).  It was the lonely misanthrope’s version of falling in love.

And then we did exchange numbers.  She lived in Chicago, so we could never talk as long as we wanted.  We were always worried about the cost of the calls (remember, I don’t have a home at the time, so it’s always someone else’s phone.  I bought phone cards, and so did she).  I loved her voice.  It was sexy without being demur and unapproachable.  I loved the way she described herself physically–digital photography and sharing of such online was much less prevalant than it is now; I had not seen a photo of her, but I believed her descriptions and it sounded right down my alley.  She was an artist (a singer and lyricist), she was fun-loving, spontaneous, sharply sarcastic, very sexual, and she loved to drink.  I was actually waking up in the mornings with that “I’m in love” glow, despite the fact that I’d never seen this girl and she lived in freakin’ Chicago.

Sometimes I’d call her from work, assuming nobody would know who the hell called Chicago.  Nobody ever knew.

Eventually, we said enough is enough, and she came to see me.  She flew into Baltimore and I picked her up in my falling-apart 1983 Ford Escort that my mom helped me buy.  I’d never done something like pick someone up at an airport.  I felt very grown up.  I of course had no idea what I was doing and struggled to get to the correct terminal on time.  I remember I was sober when I first saw her.

My heart sank.  She was ugly.  Truly ugly.  I cannot sugar-coat it for you.  She had not really lied at all in her description of herself, she had simply manipulated things a bit, used the creative vagaries of language to her benefit.  Now, I do realize that I am not Tom Cruise, but back in those days, I was almost Breckin Meyer, which isn’t nothing.  She looked kinda like a turtle. I knew immediately that I was still going to sleep with her.  It would just have to wait until I was all the way drunk.

What followed was three days of severest debauchery.  A lot, a lot of drinking.  Oh, and driving, too.  We spent all night in a bar watching bands play and then I tried to drive us to my dad’s house in Newville, but I was so drunk I got on a highway going the wrong direction.  When I realized it, I backed up–on the highway–for a couple hundred yards and back down the on-ramp.  While blindly drunk.  I think about that often, at least once a month, anytime I am feeling sorry for myself.  After getting off that highway we somehow ended up back at my mom’s.  I don’t know how I was too drunk to remember how to get to the house I grew up in.

And sex.  Yes, lots of sex, when I was blind enough to bring myself to it.  But once there, it was fantastic.  Despite being obliterated I still remember moments of it, as it was so transcendant it created moments of clarity.

And during these three days of debauchery, I did not like this girl at all.  Not a single little bit.  But what was I to do?  She was there for three days no matter what.  I couldn’t very well tell her I didn’t like her!  After all, she paid for the plane ticket!  I thought I was just giving her what she wanted.

Eventually I got her on a plane back to Chicago, breathed a sigh of relief, and figured I’d go back to my life.

Which is what I did, for the most part.  I gradually eased off the e-mails, IMs, and chatting. Phone calls became virtually non-existent.  I had succesfully gotten rid of her.

Except I was still a drunken lonely misanthrope at night, and sometimes the temptation to reach out became too strong.  And so, sometime about a year after our initial visit, I began communication with her again.  And around this time, a friend of mine was also in online talks with a girl who lived in Chicago.  I have no idea how in the world we actually set this whole thing up, but suddenly this friend and me found ourselves in his car driving halfway across the country to Chicago.  We had booked a hotel for two nights.  The road trip itself was marvelous because this friend let me smoke AND drink in his car.  I got drunk the whole way to Chicago.  Pretty much heaven, to me then.

I don’t know what I expected to happen.  I don’t know if I expected her to be pretty now.  But she wasn’t.  We met her at a friend of hers’ apartment and had a few beers.  I thought she was obnoxious and unbearable and uglier than before.  I could not believe we had just driven to Chicago for this! (although a part of me still remembered the amazing sex, but the draw of that was simply not enough)

I pulled my friend aside and told him we had to escape.  He understood.  We made up a story about an emergency with the girl he had came to Chicago to see, and I told her I’d call her to set up a time to meet the next day.  We got the hell out of there and went to see my friends’ girl.  She was adorable and awesome and her fiance was there to keep my friend away.  Both dejected, we went to our hotel room, dumped a bag of ice and a 12-pack of beer in the sink, and got wasted.  The next morning I called her and told her some lie I can’t even remember.  We drove back to Pennsylvania that very day.  I’d never see her again.

Many years passed.  My alcoholism got worse and my life got even more depressing.  I rarely thought about her.  There were new women to worry about, right in front of me.  Then things got better.  I got sober and happy and started living a good life.  I started to think about her sometimes.  Not because I wanted to see her or because I missed her, but because I knew I had, in some way, perpetrated a wrong against her.  I wondered how she was doing.

MySpace became a big deal, and I caved and signed up.  She was one of the first people I looked for, but to no avail.  Every few months I’d look again, and nothing.  Then Facebook became a big deal, and I caved and signed up.  She was one of the first people I looked for, but to no avail.  Every few months I’d look again, and nothing.

Then, one day about a year ago, I had a friend request waiting for me when I got home, and it was from her.  I was so happy!  I think I just wanted to see that she’d turned out OK, had a family and a dog and all that good stuff.

Turned out, she’d turned out just like me–if I hadn’t quit drinking.  She was single, living on friend’s couches, drunk and high every night, working at a string of low-rent bars and clubs who’d take just about anyone, depressed and talking crazy.  She was, however, still living quite an exciting life–she was still in a band, though they seemd to change monthly, and the pictures she posted to Facebook looked like she was living a celebrity lifestyle.

Oddly, she seemed to have no concept that I had harmed her in any way.  She immediately sent me many Facebook messages that were so complimentary I almost laughed at them.  If I were to print them here, you’d think I made them up.  It is not exagerrating to say that no human being has ever admired me more than this woman did after we reconnected on Facebook.  And despite the self-destructive lifestyle she was living, I started to see that this woman had a soul that shone so brightly it was nearly blinding.  What was annoying 13 years ago was now endearing, what was unbearble back then seemed bold now.  Not that I fell in love with her, oh no.  But I did see her greatness.  And she knew just what to say to me about our romps in the sack all those years ago to get my engine in the red in no time.  Yes, she was good at that.

We started talking on the phone every couple weeks.  She was amazed to hear my story from the previous decade, as she had never even known me as an alcoholic (she somehow did not recognize it in me during our three day meeting years earlier), and I think my story sounded more like I was reading a novel to her than it being my own actual life.  Regardless, it clearly hit home for her.  I could tell she felt herself slipping away into madness.  Her illness was not just one of addiction; she seemed to be going truly crazy.  She would call in the middle of the night and ask me how I’d turned things around.  I never know what to say to people when they ask me something like that.  There are no easy answers, and I only know about being a drunk.  I know shit about being crazy.  But I’d do the best I could, trying to listen more than speak.  Sometimes she was desperate, other times quiet and close to happy.  Always at the end, she talked dirty to me.

Once, she went a few weeks with no calls, texts, or Facebook posts.  Finally she called me.  “I’ve been away in the mental hospital for awhile,” she said.  She’d tried to kill herself.  I wasn’t sure whether to believe her or not; she was crazy but also a drama queen.  But I treated it as if it were real.  She seemed more ashamed of having been in the mental hospital than anything else.  We were on the phone for hours that night.  She kept talking about coming to visit me, but I kept brushing it off.  I knew that I had changed a lot over the years, but not enough for that.  In the end analysis, I’d simply use her again.  Best to keep it to phone calls and texts.

About 4 nights ago, I was laying on my couch here in Erie, going through my cell phone deleting numbers I don’t use anymore.  I came across hers and realized I hadn’t heard from her in months.  I texted her asking what was up.  When, by the next night, no reply had come, I got on Facebook and went to her page.  I was aghast.  Here is a sampling—copy and pasted—of some of the posts on her wall:

“There’s no one in town I know You gave us some place to go.I never said thank you for that.I thought I might get one more chance.What would you think of me now,so lucky, so strong, so proud?”


“I am so sorry that you never got to meet Gabrielle. Who would have thought that Dave (the man you carded) would end up my husband and I would have a family with. I think about you lots.”


“Just logged on to Facebook and it “suggested” I re-connect with you. Oh how I wish I could. Love you — missing you more than you’ll ever know.”


So.  She’s dead.  It happened in May.  I messaged a few of her friends and it seems details are sparse.  All we know is that it “happened at her family’s home”.  It had to have been suicide.  If I know her–and I think I do, now–it was suicide.

I’m not extremely broken up about it.  I feel weird.  I only met her twice, in person, many years ago.  I don’t feel a void in my life where she once resided.  But, again—I feel weird.  There is no happy ending here, and I have no great wisdom to impart.  She’s dead, and I feel like I still owe her something.  And this blog entry is definitely not it.

Big Star

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 18, 2010 by sethdellinger

Are there better lyrics to a song than those to the song “The India Song” by the band Big Star?

I’d like to go to India,
live in a big white house in the forest,
drink gin and tonic and play a grand piano,
read a few books
far from what saddens my heart.
Try to live away from it.

Find a new girl
who says she feels the same,
get to know her after the trip,
bathe in a forest pool,
her life a part of mine
and let no one know until i’m gone.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 17, 2010 by sethdellinger

Found a temporary little landbridge leading out to breakers in Lake Erie today. I’m pretty sure this only exists for a short time before the tide comes in.

Posted in Snippet with tags , , on June 16, 2010 by sethdellinger

Oh no!  TIME magazine just made a minor format change.  I may freak the fuck out.

“It takes an ocean not to break.”

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2010 by sethdellinger

Note:  the following blog is a response to a challenge by my friend Denise to write a blog explaining my interpretation of the lyric “It takes an ocean not to break” from the song “Terrible Love” by the band The National.  So I have written the blog.  She said she was going to as well but I haven’t read hers yet, so as to not taint my own.  Just let me say, this entry may make it sound like I’m depressed, but I promise I’m not.  I am happy as a clam in pigshit!  (I swear)  I have pasted a YouTube clip of the song before the text in case you might want to listen to it while reading it.  I’d suggest you do.  I may be biased, but when I listen to this song while reading this entry, I cry like a damned fool.

I’ve gotten so fat, he thought.  I can’t keep pretending it’s just cause I quit smoking.  It’s been nine months.  He stood in front of a framed movie poster, nude, rubbing his jutting belly affectionately.  The truth was, he liked it.  It was simply more of him that had never been there before.  Extra him.

He moved through the apartment, listless, fidgety, afraid to be bored.  He kept stopping in front of various framed posters, admiring his jawline, his sexy stare.  I quite like my hairline, he thought, for the dozenth time that day.

Suddenly he sat Indian-style on the carpet and began frantically paging through the photo album until he came upon a picture of her.  Ah…her.  Yes, always back to her.  It no longer hurt like it used to, but it still hurt.  But this hurt was more like a dull memory of an acute pain, and it was somehow mildly pleasing.  Like peeling up just the edge of a large scab; as long as you don’t peel it all the way back, you’re fine.

He’d always made a habit out of looking at her pictures, but nowadays it was much less frequent.  She’s still breathtaking, he thought.  Then aloud to himself:  “At least now she’s quiet company.”  He chuckled.  There was a time not so many years ago when he had hated her.

She had broken him, for a time.  Really broken him.  But then again, he thought, I’ve been broken in so many ways, so many times.  Who could pinpoint the source of a fracture?  Or the exact time we mended?  I’ve been broken by women, money, gin, friends.  He chuckled.  Seems the only thing that’s there every time is me.  How’s the saying go?  “Point the finger right at me” or something like that.

He put a shirt on and walked toward the kitchen, pondering what it meant to be broken, what it meant to be fixed.  Seemed maybe the whole of life was a series of being almost broken and finding a way toward fixed; of bending but not breaking.  Suddenly he pictured himself as a bendy straw—built to be almost-broken.

He opened his fridge to get some Diet Dr. Pepper.  As the interior light flicked on it illuminated the collage frame he had hung on his kitchen wall.  Four differently sized frames connected together in a neat shape, so one could display four different pictures of loved ones or dogs or cars or whatever you wanted on your wall.  He’d bought it at Wal-Mart for 2 bucks.

There was the picture of his dad, probably taken a decade earlier.  The man was wearing sweat pants and a sweat shirt and was making the world’s groggiest face.  It made him smile, this picture of his dad, looking at him from five hours and ten years away.  This dad who would always love him, no matter what.

And beside it, his mother—that loving, knowing, forgiving grin spread across her face in the parking lot of some Kohl’s department store in New Jersey somewhere.  Who’d have ever guessed she’d be there, too, staring into his fridge?  And below her, his sister, and beside her his friend Paul, shooting a pool cue and smiling into the camera, as if to say, I’m always going to be here, buddy.

And he turned around and suddenly imagined photographs of all his friends and family spread out across all his kitchen walls.  Every inch covered by pictures of people who would and had always stood by him.  Even the light switches were covered.  Despite his fears of seeming cheesy or—God forbid—sentimental, tears welled up in his eyes as he realized how much love swirled around his life.  He did not wipe the tears away, and through the moisture of his eyes it appeared everyone he knew was bobbing around on some four-cornered sea in his kitchen, smiling at him, blowing him kisses, clinging to desperate life rafts.  He breathed in deep, said “It takes an ocean not to break.”

Presque Isle

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , on June 14, 2010 by sethdellinger

The beach road glitters in the noonday heat.
It is thick with horseflies from the bayside marsh.
They swarm and hiss as I pass

through to the edge of the world.
I lie on a bed of sand and count the pulse of the surf.
In time, it becomes my own.

The taste of water is in the breeze
that bends the long reeds on the dune crest.
Tides drive the walleye north to the peninsula’s tip,

where men with poles stand on rocks and wait.
To the south, branch wood brambles in gnarled shapes
sing of storms long gone, but never far away.

The stream of wind mocks speech.
In the roaring silence I gaze up,
my tongue swollen and dry.

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