Chuck Wendig, the Internet, and 9/11
I don't know how I stumbled upon Chuck Wendig. Could've been Facebook. Might've been someone mentioned him in a post, or an article, or maybe I was Googling my own name, trying to see if I'm still the #1 Joe Clifford (I am) in between measuring my biceps (still 17 inches, in case you care), and used search words like "cool," "awesome," "jaded, bitter, fucked-up," "Joe Clifford-like" and discovered his terrific blog, Terrible Minds. My guess is that Chuck Wendig is somehow tied to the world of noir, in which I am almost exclusively immersed these days, at least in terms of what I'm reading/writing (the rest of my life being goddamn sunshine and rainbows).
It's a small scene, this noir. The ezines and magazines, houses and agents, awards and writers. At least I think it is. I never actually met these people; they exist entirely in the realm of...cyberspace. There was a time, not so long ago, that I couldn't fathom ever using the term "cyberspace," let alone trolling on it for hours and finding most of my friends residing there.
The Internet is a big, weird thing (how's that for adjectival non-commitment?). It's hard to know what to make of it a lot of the time. It's a time-sucking waste, for sure. I read somewhere that being a writer is "1% talent, 99% not being distracted by the Internet." It's fucking true. But it's my social life, or rather where I am most social. I sure as fuck prefer "connecting" with others this way, over a keyboard and computer screen, as opposed to actual human contact in the flesh (actual people tend to smell). People on the Internet can't let you down or disappoint you nearly as much, and they don't steal your shit nearly as often (unless you recklessly provide your credit card information to Nigerian princes holding your newly unearthed inheritance). And it's where I work, y'know, networking or whatever the fuck it is I think I am doing with this writing career of mine, meeting and greeting, mixing and matching, commenting graciously and being gracious for comments. (It's also where I research and study my fantasy football, but I don't think you want to hear about what a worthless bunch of cocksucking fucktards I drafted this year. Seriously, if I didn't know better, I'd say I was high. Who the fuck drafts a QB coming off major neck surgery in the 4th fucking round? Meet my two-headed RB shit monster: Mendenhillis...). Most importantly, though, the I-net is where I discover gems like Chuck Wendig, who reminds me just how good good writing can be (Sunset Boulevard reference intended).
Sunday, as I'm sure you are aware, was the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. It's a big deal. I normally wouldn't comment on such a weighty matter, but if you were alive on Sunday and anywhere near a television, computer, radio, or carrier pigeon, there's no getting around it. And we all have a personal attachment. Like Wendig writes, it was our Kennedy assassination. But it's tough, so much celebration of somber recollection. Especially when you have talking heads who you know have been directed to look extra somber, flag waving patriotically in the background over a corny swell of cornier music. I get that the day needs to be revered, that we, as a nation, need to "never forget." But saturation leads to weakening the message, especially when it's Marv Albert delivering the message on ESPN in between stock car racing and fantasy football advice (thanks again, Matt Berry, for slotting Mendhall as the "11th best fantasy option. His 45 fucking points without a score did me a fuckload of good). So how do you treat a day of modern infamy with the respect it deserves while not feeling like you are on the same planet as Marv Albert? It's a big fucking deal.
I certainly remember where I was that day. I'd just gotten out of a long-term treatment facility, and it was, like, my third day back at school. I'd reenrolled at Central Connecticut State University, where I'd amassed a buttload of unusable credits chasing pretty girls in the late '80s. After a ten-year absence to...find myself? hit the open road? fuck away my future?--I was back. But like Adam Ant's brief mid-'90s awkward revival, I just wasn't sure anyone was asking for it.
Sober, ten years older, shaky, bitter, self-conscious, still shouldering that strange junkie sense that despite all these flaws I was somehow part of an elite (don't ask me; it makes no sense), and straddling two worlds, one a legitimate, though uphill, path to get to where I am now, and the other, a sleek, slippery road back to the gutter, my warped world view and I were back for another go-round. Good luck.
I was in the parking lot of the Dunkin' Donuts when news of the twin towers started to flow in. I don't remember feeling the emotion I know I should have, the feelings that would stir later when ramifications started impacting what we knew about "freedom" and the heavy toll that word exacts, nor do I recall actually talking to anyone, but if I had I certainly would've used it as an excuse to espouse junkie paranoid government theory or rant about antinomianism, but since I hadn't yet learned what that word meant, I can't say for sure. In any case, it would've been self-serving and missing the point.
all people (Americans, I mean), no matter which side of ideological fences or political views they were on. And that was a very good thing. What happened next?
I'm not touching that, the policies and wars and decisions, because that isn't what I do. But after a day where I had to endure the endless loops of middle-of-the-road, non-committal, network homogenized, obligatory "reflections," Phil Fucking Simms offering his pointed, insightful commentary from the all-important ex-QB/current analyst constituency, I was ecstatic when I came across this article by Chuck Wendig on his blog, Terrible Minds. Because I didn't have to write anything daring and unflinchingly honest about that day, didn't have to mine depths and render the universal unique and vice versa, like all good writing should do. I didn't have to reconcile conflicting feelings and find a way to give 9/11 the respect it deserves while still being sure to stand in opposition to those things I so vehemently oppose, like further oppression of the oppressed, further isolation of the disenfranchised. I didn't have to find a way to say it's about inclusion, not exclusion, about using a tragedy to grow personally and as a whole, while not turning a blind eye or allowing free reign to pervert original meanings. Chuck Wendig did it for me.