A Sample Chapter from “Minimal Reaction”

I have been working on this novel for 5 years. It’s almost done and as I put the finishing touches on it and get ready to send it to my editor and then to the market, I can honestly say I’m going to miss these characters. I love them dearly and will remember them fondly like college friends I have not seen in years. This portion is unedited so excuse any blatant errors.

Part 4 Chapter 2 from “Minimal Reaction

I am admittedly not as close to my parents as other children, but the callousness displayed at the bottom of the dumpster was like nothing I had ever seen or heard of in my life. The house was completely empty of all the monetary valuable items and all that remained in the dumpster were the memories. I imagined the two sisters conspiring to have everything of value taken and stored somewhere to be later sold, or maybe it was already sold, liquidated through antique dealers, boxed up and ready for auction. The large pieces of furniture only staying to be sold with the house, which I quickly looked up and realized was already on the market. I have never felt so ashamed to be part of a larger family. I wanted to die right then and there.

The dumpster was filled about half way with photo albums, family video tapes, some personal items, old books, old newspapers, notes written in my grandparent’s handwriting. Anything personal had been carelessly tossed into the dumpster, anything of no value to anyone but a family member had been chucked, to make way for more money, to make way for purchasing new things with no ties to the past. Their guilt must have been so unconscionable, that it burned their hearts. The easiest thing to do was to declare it junk and throw it the trash. I was sick and getting sicker by the minute, but at least I had found what I had come for. There was a sigh of relief in that, they left everything my mother wanted in this dumpster, primed for pick up and taken to the local landfill, dreams, memories, and love buried with the rest of the rubbish from the entire area. The mental sickness my aunts displayed by throwing this stuff away I wasn’t ready for. This was to be my burden. My mother and Cassidy would never know because I would never tell them. I knew the truth and it literally hurt me. I needed to pack up as much as I could as soon as I could and get out of here. I started to become nervous, but my curiosity was overwhelming me.

I couldn’t help it. I had to look through some of the photos. In the first book I opened I found black and white photos of kids. Some I recognized as my mother and aunts, others could have been neighborhood children or distant cousins. There was a series of them in party hats, balloons abound the living room that was just on the other side of the dumpster in front of me, but decades earlier, children played happily while adults looked on proud. Camera’s flashed and everyone would want to come by after the film was developed to relive the day, now over a month ago. Pictures of the birthday transitioned into pictures of kids in hastily slapped together Halloween costumes, someone literally in a sheet with eye holes cut out. I laughed to myself.  What a far cry from the realistic costumes we put on today. Evidence that time changes everything.

Time did change everything. Some of the smiling beautiful faces in these pictures were the same ones that have warped into money hungry devils. I looked at the peace and sanctity that was clearly present in my Aunt Sarah’s eyes, not at all like the ones that I saw earlier. These were seraphic, uncomplicated eyes that had innocence and purity and were free of judgement and hate. These were eyes that were simple, and loving, and wonderful. The adult world makes you jaded, money and consumer obsessed, if you’re not careful, capitalism because your way of life and you forget how to love things are aren’t covered in prices and money. The eyes I saw earlier were sad lost eyes that had no control over their own jealousy, greed, and obsession for materialism. She knew it was wrong but could not help it. My aunts were fiends for money and possessions like Stupid Mikey was for crystal meth. At least Stupid Mickey never hurt anyone he loved.

I started 3 piles. One that was clearly junk like old food boxes or dish towels with holes in them, the other was stuff that I had to get back to my mother like photo albums, video tapes, reel tapes, and knick-knacks, the third pile was mine, which so far had a hat that was my grandfather’s that said “Be A Happy Farmer” on it. It had his sweat marks on it and grease and oil on the brim. It was perfect. I tried to sort quickly and had it in the back of my head that I shouldn’t be there any longer than I had to. I was sitting on a box that had some tools in it, and I didn’t think my father would want anything. Certain items like an old jacket I sat thinking about too long. I had to make the choices quick, and going through these things so haphazardly was starting to bother me. My mind was wandering something wicked and I thought about gaining a little chemical help. I jumped up and tossed my legs over the top of the dumpster. Right before I hoisted myself out, I noticed a little brown leather bound notebook where I was sitting. I eased myself back in and grabbed it with the intentions of using it as a table to break up my next line. I lept back out and went to the car, opened the passenger side door, placed the book in my lap, and grabbed my stash. I emptied a little cocaine and half a Xanax onto the book, and broke up the pill and with the side of my license and then mixed the two together. I went back to my wallet and grabbed a bill, rolled it up, and bent my face down towards the line of powder I just made. I snorted it clean and I immediately felt the effects numb my brain. I picked my head up to see a small dark circle only an inch away from my eye and simultaneously heard the unmistakable sound of a shotgun being cocked.

Thank Your Teachers: A Tribute to Dave Fish

It was my freshman year of college when I met Dave. He was in the graduate program at hippy haven SUNY New Paltz teaching Freshman Comp 101.  I landed in his class by mere fate or maybe some sort of secret lottery system I’m not sure of, but either way I was there.

Dave was going to show us what the Beat Generation meant to the world of literature and I was eager and ready having known for years who Allen Ginsberg was, his sad bearded face adorned a Rolling Stone that showed up some years before after his death on my parent’s coffee table. I read the article and was amazed that one man could do so much with poetry.

The novel that was assigned to us that class was Jack Kerouac’s masterpiece On the Road. I had no idea what was about to happen to me. I knew that I had been assigned many books to read in English classes, most of which were either good enough to finish or important enough to get through. My favorites up until that point were Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath. I thought I was just a huge Steinbeck fan, little did I know how little I knew.

I read On the Road in one day. My eyes couldn’t stop darting around the pages and I needed more. I couldn’t wait to get to class every day to see what everyone else thought, to see what Dave had to say, to see what the narratives that were extracted smelled and felt like. I was, in part, obsessed, because I learned, Kerouac was more than just a writer, he was a rule breaker, a punk rocker, the beginning of the “hippy” movement and possibly the end and beginning of something bigger generationally in America.

Being immersed in the heart of the dragon every day, surrounded by neo hippy socialites and pot smoking sandal wearing patchouli addicts made me see why Jack drank himself to stupidity and eventually death. By the time the class had ended I not only had read other books by Jack, but a biography as well. I knew Jack like I knew myself, in and out, and was seriously pained to see how misconstrued his messages had become, the consumerism of it all, the lost art of jazz, true prose exploding like roman candles across the sky.

But Dave, he understood. He knew what Jack meant! He was explaining it daily and in terms I had never thought of. “Mississippi Gene is Buddha!” Dave yelled and my pen hit the paper to make a note. My brain was melting. “You don’t need to write this down”, I thought. “Jesus! This is life shit!”

Standing in the Shawangunk Mountains late one afternoon, the sun starting to disappear behind the peaks, the chilly air starting to casually stroll in, my stomach reminding me to go back to campus and hit the dining hall, and I realized what it was I wanted to do. Of course, I always knew it, but I needed this moment for it to become concrete.

I wrote my first book when I was in first grade. I was on the news. It was a Christmas book, but more Stephen King and Tim Burton than your typical Christmas story. Although I had no idea what macabre was I was certainly already dabbling in it.

In the book, Santa had been impersonated by the Devil, who went around killing children, then made toys from their bones and gave the toys as presents to other children.

It’s fucked, I know.

And the worst part is, they don’t catch the devil in the end. The lead detective, a woman named Kristy, is unable to solve the crime. The ending was either intentionally left open for a sequel or more importantly, was a precursor to the way I saw all literature, further backed and corroborated by the Beat Generation more than a decade later.

Even at an early age I always wondered why there had to be a well-defined good guy and bad guy in every story. Real life never works this way. Sometimes you’re the good guy and sometimes you’re the bad guy.

Sometimes you learn a bunch of stuff and change your ways and sometimes you learn a bunch of stuff and don’t change a damn thing. If life is never so cut and dry why should literature be?

Art imitates life. I have always considered writing an art before it is entertainment. Good art makes for good entertainment, but good entertainment isn’t necessarily art.

In New Paltz, under the distinct tutelage of Dave fish, I was shown that other people thought this way and I wasn’t alone. My thoughts were suddenly vindicated, it was a relief and a burden all at once. I couldn’t give up and I wouldn’t.

In order to break the rules I had to first learn them and I did, imitating Kerouac, Ginsberg, Brautigan, Baraka, Corso, Snyder, and others. I spent so much time writing that I forgot to go to math class, business class, science class, and pretty much every other class. I helped start a poetry group and an on campus magazine that centered on poetry as art. I eventually dropped out of school completely and moved to the city of Syracuse to become the next Jack Kerouac.

I became a waiter instead.

I did go back and eventually graduate college with a degree in writing and since have pressed forward as the struggling writer that I have always wanted to be. But you can’t live out your dreams without a lot of people standing behind you encouraging you and aiding you along the way.

You never know where your inspiration can come from as a writer or as any individual ready to move forward and progress. What I may not have understood at the time but certainly do now is that my progress had to embrace the complete weirdness that I know resides inside me. But it’s hard to let that out.

You’re growing a second head that if you let it out people are going to look at you differently. I needed someone to tell me that it was acceptable and that others had done it before, to cultivate the plant of weirdness that has already rooted in the soul was actually a good thing. Let them think you’re weird, because, well, you are. Weird is unique. Unique is art. Art is entertainment.

The reason I’m a weird writer isn’t Dave’s fault. That burden probably falls on my parents. But the enrichment of my weirdness that led me to become a writer?

That one’s on you, Dave.

The Writer

When I was in college I had a professor get an overstuffed ego when his book was published and he won an award. He became so bloated he could barely fit into a classroom and even filled lecture halls with the stink of his gloat.

I hated him with most of my might. I was eighteen and didn’t give a damn about his dumb book. I just wanted to know how to get where he was.

On the final exam one of the questions was “What’s the difference between an author and a writer?” My response? “A writer writes and an author auths”. I actually received one point.

What this particular professor taught me, even though he did not mean to teach me anything, was that in order to be a writer you need to write. That’s it. It’s really that simple. But there’s so much gut tearing, so many hernias at every turn, gallons of sweat and annoyance, and infinite amounts of brain freeze with every key stroke that it’s so difficult for even the best writer.

So I wrote this email to myself on September 9th of 2017. I wrote it and saved it and I look at it as much as I can to help defeat writers block, help remember the importance of the writer, and to take the chance of freezing up my brain with another key stroke again and again.

The Writer

The writer is always at odds with him/her self, always trying to explain and justify their view, and going against popular belief now because it won’t’ be popular forever.

The writer is always creating the narrative of society when the narrative doesn’t exist, is constantly hearing the opposite of what they believe and will do anything to convince a straggling few that what they are seeing is a vision of the future, a glimpse into what is to become, however impossible that may seem at the time.

The writer isn’t about going against the norm on purpose, but because they can’t see it any other way, it’s not being contrarian just to rouse, but making sure people are roused to stay contrarian. The writer will bring something that isn’t’ in the limelight into view and do it even though there is no reception. The writer graduates into the next realm and lives to tell the tale, but it’s all for nothing because the writer won’t have the money and won’t have much recognition, but it gets done anyway.

The writer writes because if the writer doesn’t he/she will fucking explode.

The writer would rather be in writing than be in person because it’s not about standing in the spotlight, it’s about holding the spotlight, a light that most people won’t notice until it’s gone. What the writer identifies with now will make sense after the generation he or she exists in no longer exists.

The writer writes because writers write.

 

What This Shit Means to Me

It’s so much more than a petrified piece of poo. It’s a sharp reminder that life happens fast and you should never take shit from anyone, especially if it’s something that you truly believe in. It’s a putrid reminder that sometimes shit rolls downhill, that there’s always shit on your mind, there’s always lots of shit to do, and you’re always looking for ways to escape all this shit. But it’s also funny, because sometimes shit is funny.

This shit reminds me to stay patient that sometimes you have to wait for shit. That shit doesn’t come easy. Not all shit that does come easy is bad shit, sometimes quick shit is easy and good, but waiting and being patient for shit usually pays off the best. The best shit makes you wait and that shit feels good when it finally arrives.

But most of all this shit reminds me of my Grandfather. He put this very same fake shit on his head when I was a kid and walked into the room. He got my attention and I looked at him and saw the shit, but thought that shit was real and I was so disappointed in him. All I said was, “Oh, Papa!” and everyone started laughing. Then I found out the shit was fake and I realized that sometimes it’s funny to play a practical joke and that he really didn’t let a big dog shit on his head. And I learned a little something about comedy and love.

But it also shows some humility too, that you’re willing to take some shit because sometimes you have to and sometimes you have to be willing to give a shit, even when nobody else does.

I keep this shit on my desk when I’m writing. I look at it to remind myself to dig down deep into the shit and to be as real as possible. It’s a little reminder that you have to get all the shit down while you can, and you better love the shit you create, but never take that shit too seriously.

This shit is important to me and so is writing. So I keep this shit to remind me of the past, the present, and the future.  It reminds me that I’ll never be scared shit-less, no matter what shit I face.

Thanks for reading this shit.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

Twizzlers and Solace

Battered sidewalks of diesel are still better than the hospital rank stuck to my shirt collar. Its dark now but just 5:30pm and there is nothing else to do but listen to the rubber of my sneakers complain against my heel. There’s few things to set the mind right, but raw brown liquor and cold sudsy beer should at least be a start. It’s no wonder many seek solace in the spirits, they offer liberation of thought, deep intangible waves of synapses slowed to the gentle lap of a canoe’s wake in a stream.

A shot of whiskey enters and its warmth is comforting. Today there is more to worry about than politics, more to think about than right or left, plenty of other things to occupy my wandering mind other than the most recent Facebook post of an angry Hillary supporter. There is real hurt in this world, real pain, and deep suffering that can only be understood when experienced, and can only be empathized with if you have actually been there yourself.

My life is lived like a fly on the wall, an observer,  a reporter to the way things look in my eyes.  Whether it is sports or culture or both I can only tell the story as I personally see it. Today we have a divided country, not by what is only seen nightly on CNN, but listed on social media, portrayed by everyday people that you and I follow. The “right” won and they seem to incessantly wave an indignant finger in the face of the “left”. The “left” posts on how upset they are by the atrocities of our president elect, followed the next day by their recent outing to a professional sporting event. The smell of rotten privilege comes from both sides, a sickening sweet smell, potent and rife across the country, as unguents and oils are spread on our faces before we gas up our SUV.

Truth is, severe situations will make you think a little harder. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone will spellbind you into thinking a bit differently. I know my role and I am comfortable in it, I would jeopardize all but my own family to get where I know I want to be. I am passionate about my lot in life and although I strive to make it better, I strive first to make it mine.

If you are truly interested in changing this country, if you are interested in education, if you are currently upset with the general zeitgeist of America then I would shut off of the Facebook App and get involved. There are plenty of places and institutions to become involved with, plenty of groups that promote equality and individualism in safe environments. The key is education to those who never had the opportunity to be educated before and there are excellent programs in place for you to become involved with to help spread the word and do some good in your hometown, in your state, in your country. Whatever you are most passionate about there is a place for you. If everyone got involved a little we could all help a lot.

While the whiskey was warm the beer is cold and relaxation washes over me. I have to go back to that room, stand with my hands in my pockets and sweat and bite my nails. I know everything is going to be alright, but I’m not sure how I know. It’s just inherent, like I know the sun will rise, or that I’ll probably finish all the vodka at Annie’s later.

It just means it’s Twizzlers for dinner and solace in writing.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

Naked, I am.

In 1957, defending himself against a heckler while on stage, Allen Ginsberg took off his clothes and said, “Come up here and share your feelings.  The poet always stands naked before the world.”

In Ginsberg’s poem, Howl, he states that he’s seen the best minds of his generation “starving hysterical naked”.  It conjures images of a madman, a Kerouac-ian loaner, dancing naked in the rain, screaming anti-capitalist statements at the top of his lungs, maybe on Benzedrine, probably smoking tea.  But that’s not what Allen meant.  I get that now.  He meant the naked soul. Baring your body is nowhere near as scary as bearing your soul.  Kim Kardashian will forever get more clicks by baring her famous buttocks than she will for bearing her soul.  I get that now.  So here I am, getting naked.

2 years ago my wife and I had a child. He is my best friend, my closest family member, and literally the funniest guy I know.  We spend tons and tons of time together.  And I am no longer the same person.  My son taught me things I never would have imagined.  He taught me that I need to live out my life as best I know how, to provide for him and teach him.  I somehow understood something new about myself, just by looking at him, just by changing a diaper, from sleepless nights to quiet moments.  I decided to stop hiding and try to launch my writing career.  I needed to know what it meant to live out your dreams and to never settle in order to truly teach him that things can always be better.

I was scared, and felt stupid.  I didn’t know anything about promoting myself as a writer.  I had already let past successes in my writing career pass me by.  I was almost embarrassed to say that I was a writer, and I wasn’t confident enough to let it define me. Not yet anyway.  How would I make money? What would people think of me?  Would they tell me to get a ‘real job’?  I needed answers to these questions before I could dive in.  I needed assurance that my rebirth would be accepted by friends and family.  I was not able to cope with that in my mid-twenties, so I ran from it, buried it, grew long hair and played in a punk rock band instead. My forever rebellious attitude forever rebelling against myself.

I needed to make sure that I could provide for my son and wife.  I needed to get a good job that could pay the bills and settle into something that had a good balance between corporate and family life.  And I did.  But Parker needs to know that life is supposed to be hard, you’re supposed to struggle to get what it is you really want.  Nothing is handed over, nothing of any value anyway.  I knew I’d struggle to launch a successful writing career, but when I do it’ll show him what it is to truly achieve your dreams to the fullest, the only side effects being good work ethic, drive, passion, intensity, and emotion; even if I fail.  I need to teach by doing, not by telling.

I have always been scared to branch out, nervous to speak my mind completely; afraid of what others may think of me, afraid of what they may say when my back is turned.  But you can’t be a real writer until you bare it all. You have to strip away the layers of what others think and feel and communicate your real emotions, your truest and deepest emotions.  Only then can you be a successful writer.  Allen Ginsberg was right; the poet always stands naked before the world.  I know that now.

I am dad. I am son.  I am husband.  I am one.  I am brave.  I am weak.  I am strong.  I am meek.  I am happy.  I am free.  I am all.  I am me.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.