Friday, December 26, 2008

The Year in Review 2008 [All I Know is That I Should]

Dear Dad,

I’m writing you from the airplane. It’s a really tiny jet, just one seat in my row and two across the aisle. On the right side (I’m on the left) you can see the sun setting across the whole wide world. There’s one solid line of burnt orange, sandwiched by a dark sheath of cloud and the earth below it. It’s pretty beautiful.

I had lunch with your Mom and Dad today. Grandma’s doing well, actually, better than I’d expected, maybe even better than she was a few years ago. Grandpa just sits in his chair, he doesn’t know what’s going on. We were having dinner yesterday, for Christmas – we still do our celebration on the 24th, but now on the 25th I'm flying instead of going to the movies like we used to do together -- and everyone was watching the babies play with their new toys and Grandpa says “Where am I?” and everyone ignored him. It was real quiet and maybe only I heard him. He says stuff like that all the time.

Anyhow we were watching the babies. Carrie and her husband have a boy, Kyle and his wife have a girl. I guess we always knew they’d be the first ones to do that.

Grandpa’s chair has a button on the arm-rest so he can lift himself up almost all the way into a stand. Sometimes you’ll just be sitting there and you’ll hear this buzzing – that’s the sound the chair makes when he’s pressing the button to go up. That’s how you know Grandpa wants to go somewhere.

Everyone helps him get up and then he gets on his walker and walks to the back of the house, then he gets confused and Grandma goes and takes him back to the chair. She takes care of him all the time. It’s something to do.

Anyhow, it was good to see them and see everyone – Mom, and your sisters and my cousins, and to spend time with Lewis. I guess you know what happened with S., I’m sure your sister told you about it, or maybe she didn’t. All the lies he told and what he took from her; his mother. One of the things I learned this year was that that kind of thing actually happens more than people think. You know – people make up lives and stories they like better than their true lives and stories. Sometimes they do it for love or money but usually they don’t even know why they do it, they just do it. Like how I don’t know why I sometimes get swallowed in darkness, it just happens and there I am with my eyes open but nothing around me seems light.

I wish I’d had the time to know you. Maybe what I mean is I wish you'd had the time to know me. I’m obsessed with you.

Last night we were talking about Obama and Aunt B said “You know I’d always wondered about your father, you know, like now with Obama -" and I said that I know you would’ve loved him. (Mom said that too, she called me the day after, she wishes you could’ve seen it happen. You know Aunt B went door to door in the whitest whitest parts of plain flat Ohio for Obama? She did that. And you should’ve heard Grandma talking shit about Palin Dad, you would’ve been so proud of your parents. (Grandma told me a story about when they first met my Mom, the first “Jewish person” they’d ever met, and Grandma made these potatoes wrapped in bacon, and Grandma Goldstein went apeshit? Amazing.)

Then Aunt B said, Oh no honey. I mean I wonder if your father would have been in the cabinet. I laughed like we were talking about spaceships or something. He was on track to be an economic advisor for Clinton’s second term, she said then. I probably laughed again. I mean still as I write this I feel like I’m writing lies too.

Uncle T said: At the funeral, strangers came up to me and said losing Vic is not just a loss to the accounting community and to U of Michigan and to Price Waterhouse but losing Vic is a loss to the world economy.

We talked for a little bit about that; you know, how you never told us anything. Top ten accounting researcher in the world, Lewis saying your study was material in an investments class he took in college. You never told us anything besides that your work was boring and we didn’t want to hear about it.

Maybe telling myself you quit while you were ahead was the only thing that got me through, so I’m going to say that I think they were bullshitting about that too. Everyone seems better in retrospect. I mean it’s over Dad so what can anyone really say?


Everyone always talks about how you were a genius. Does that mean I’m a genius too? Sometimes I feel really stupid, Dad.


Anyhow so I was going to tell you about 2008. It’s probably weird that I’m putting this on my blog. You get it though, you always knew this is what I’d be doing. When you and Mom started having me dictate my diaries to you before I knew how to write? You told me it mattered enough to write it down. Maybe that’s all I needed, maybe that’s why I guess you get this.

I hope so ‘cause everything I do, I do hoping you’d approve. It’s kinda difficult since you’re dead, I have to do a lot of guesswork.

Anyhow so 2008 was crazy. 2007 was crazy too but 2008 was a different kind of crazy. You're a good person to talk to about the years because it's your birthday. December 31st. You were born and then the new year started right away.

I’ve spent the last two years in other people’s fantasy worlds. I think that says something about my ability to accept the world as it is. It’s just that as it is; the world is sort of ugly and mundane and miracles don't happen every day. In the subway I look around me and see faces like paper plates. It’s just that I died when I was only 14. Fuck. I’m sorry. I mean that you died when I was only 14.

I’m obsessed with you, I like you so much, I talk to everyone but you. I pretend sometimes I couldn’t care less.

I've learned that I don’t have eternal life, that I haven't been chosen by some higher power to change the world, I'm the one with that choice, and speaking of the opposite of that I learned this year that I’m not truly able to jet to Malibu and drink cocktails and read novels by the pool all the time and over-tip and give everything to everyone who ever needs anything. It was fun though to believe those things. It was a time. We laughed and ran, like you did. Always running, laughing, always in the air going places.

I tell you Dad, I loved it. All the places I got to see. I’ll see anything. I feel like everything is interesting! Crossing that bridge at night in Austin, heat like a desert dressed up as an acoustic embrace.

The moment right before Austin I first saw my secret cyber-savior walk up the stairs to my stupid linoleum Harlem place and even though I was so nervous I was already high enough to not know what to say, and stayed nervous for weeks, and then how this year I nearly lost her like I lost you – I mean it Dad -- and how one day when we have that kind of vocabulary Dad? I’ll understand how much it meant that I didn’t. We didn’t lose her. Anyhow I was talking about flying.

The peace of the bed in Miami, alone when they went into town without me. Hiding from the world beneath those sheets, and the silver to eat with. I said, what do you want. I said, I have access to your happiness. I know someone who knows someone. I said I was a superhero. No one is but like I said anyway I was talking about flying. The thing about flying is all you see. You can see for miles, sandwiched in that hot orange place between earth and sky.

I went to a lot of places, which is funny ‘cause in ’07 I never went anywhere at all, just to Philly, and out to the hospital and out to see her family in the suburbs. ’08 is the first time I’ve traveled for the sake of traveling since you died.

Right after you died, we tried to go on vacation without you but it wasn’t the same so we stopped trying at some point. It wasn't anyone's fault, it's just we were reminded. Grandma mentioned Hawaii, she still remembers the food on the airplane. That's the farthest away your parents have ever been from home, because you took them there.


In 2008, I tried to fix the biggest hole that’s ever been dug in my heart since you’ve died and for a lot of reasons, I failed. So I just have to let that hole sit there, un-fixed, and do what I can to tread efficiently and productively on the fissures. I am figuring out how to see it and feel it and say: that's okay, I can go on.

I’ve found some wells of happiness. I sometimes sit at the bottom, splashing and happy as a clam.
I mean it. Eyes like saucers, blue and open to anything, even me.

I had a really brilliant June and July. A solid January full of hope. Some of February. Oh ... some of all of it.

I can’t really say anything more about that part of my life because something else I learned this year is that when I write things down, I make them true – permanent at least – so I try not to do that to things that are still happening. I don’t want to fuck with time and space. I mean that I do – I do want to fuck with time and space. What I learned this year is that I actually cannot do that. All I have is this time, my little space. Insert myspace joke here.

I think I’m more confident now than I was, even if I don't deserve to be. Remember how I kept getting fired? I was the worst. Not all of us were put here to work, Eileen Myles says: “Why can’t I just act that way. why can’t I write everything down like my life counts, like I’m the Queen of England or Bobby Vee, and that way I can be safe and not have to wait to die ... why can’t I live right now. Because I am not rich, I am not a saint. But I do know this: not all of us were sent here to work.”

Actually I think we are all sent here to work, it’s just different kinds of work.

Anyway Dad I was talking about flying and in that burnt orange space I need to tell you that anyway I have this hope that people are gonna come to me when they oughtta. I gotta believe that things are gonna work out somehow and that all choices in retrospect become good ones because they are true and if something is true it must be good. Anyway I was saying honesty is a real bitch.

I want to be more self-reliant because when I hand the wheel over to someone else, I’m not even like a backseat driver. I just recline and stare at the stars and wait to become infinite.

Like you; infinite.

I have some really good friends you’d really love, I’ve always been blessed with good friends. When I fall to pieces they’re there. When THEY fall to pieces they’re there. Like angels. They aren’t angels because no one is angels but they are very similar. There are some people I love with a deep, radiating love, a love so strong it transcends logic but not in a crazy way, just in a super-love way. Like the way superheroes love other superheroes after they’ve lost their powers.

I have really amazing readers who do crazy things for me! It’s so awesome, I think you’d be kinda proud of me sometimes.

I’m living with someone I love and I love our apartment and being here with her. I get scared just writing that, I always jinx good things.

"Listen, my truest love.
I've tried to clear a late century place for us
in among the shards.
Lie down, tell me what you need.
Here is where loneliness can live
with failure,
and nothing's complete.
I love how we go on."
(Stephen Dunn, “Loves”)

So anyhow. I’m still writing and editing videos. Still scraping by. Still have all kinds of debt I know you’d hate. I think you wrote the book on how to avoid that. I still rely too much on substances to make me feel anything other than this. “Not me” is what all those pills and drinks should be called. I’ll just have a “not me on the rocks.” But Dad I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon, so I’m gonna figure out how to better live with it.

I guess that’s the thing – accepting things as they are. Accepting discomfort and making a life anyhow. I want to start my own magazine online so I’m going to do that, alone I guess, starting real soon I hope, I’m getting ready. Or not, I mean. I was talking anyway about flying. One time we went running together, you and me. One time in Orlando she jumped on the grass, one-two-jump-on-three. Everything was beautiful and perfect. It’s just that I rarely let go. I let go a lot last year and this year. I was dropped too, but first I opened up to like ... I dunno. Joy? Comfort? I just always felt like if first I had the help to jump, I could fix something. Just I want to help the world get better. God, I mean, that’s so pretentious. Who am I, no one. But that’s the thing who cares? I’m no one but if everyone is who is no-one wants to help the world get better than surely we’ll all make a difference like by default.

I think I have some things to say and I’m hoping there are people willing to listen. I know the economy has crashed – which probs made your head explode, how avoidable that whole thing was – but we have a new president who you’d like. Hope and that.

I feel optimistic right now, who knows how I’ll feel in five minutes. I feel sad right now, I wish I could die tomorrow and I hate myself for a selfish wish. I feel so happy, I feel so beautiful, I feel ugly, I feel terrific, I feel whatever the fuck ever, who cares. Enough feeling ... I'm hoping to act on that.

I love how we go on.

Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know what’s been going on. I know you’ve been worried. I keep trying.

You two were so close, your Mom said to me. You two were glued together. You were just two peas in a pod.


So, you, it’s Christmas. I’m writing you now from my bed, it’s been several hours since I was on the plane. My friend picked me up from the airport, I had champagne and we talked about how things are better in a lot of ways since last year, and how there’s nothing else to do but go up. Okay, so we didn’t say that about going up exactly but that was what was said. We will. What I mean is we try to predict the future, which is boring 'cause it's never true, so in the meantime we can play infinite. Anyway I was talking about flying.

I made some bad choices this year, you know. But I grew and keep on.

My number one feeling is dancing. My number two feeling is:

I love the past, which doesn't exist
until I summon it, or make it up,
and I love how you believe
and certify me by your belief,
whoever you are, a fiction too,
held together by what? Personality?
Voice? I love abstractions. I love
to give them a nouny place to live,
a firm seat in the balcony
of ideas, where music plays.
(Stephen Dunn, Loves)

I just want to live like music.

I'm still trying to reach you.

As Ever,
All my Love,


marlene. said...

amazing. x

Anonymous said...

Is there even a way to respond to this? I'll leave it to those better with words than I. But I do know (deeply, truly) that you are a singularly phenomenal being, and your dad is enormously proud of you.

Thanks for hitting the nail on the head, Riese, again and again and again.

Anonymous said...

this was beautiful and heartbreaking. i wanted to turn the words into a blanket and wrap myself in them. i have never had a father so in some ways i can understand...but for me its more of an obsession with the idea of one rather than the one i am biologically linked to. for you...that's where it all goes downhill for me and i can no longer comprehend. my friend's father just passed away. in all honesty i am not that close with her, and i did not know her father well, but at the funeral i was a wreck. i never cry, but there was something about the impossibility of it all that triggered something in me that i no longer knew was there...if i ever knew it was there to begin with. i am the same as you in many ways...which is comforting honestly. i have denied ever wanting a presence of a father in my life simply because i was rejected by him. i knew i could go it alone. but at this funeral...i couldn't keep the scene of the altar from blurring against my vision. i felt that way when i lost someone to the finality of all...of this...this world, this earth, this being. i wanted to know why the earth hadn't stopped spinning, why the highways weren't empty, why the moon could still hang in the sky without cracking down the middle and falling into my palms like blushing cotton. i ache for you at times. this letter truly touched me. and its rare that in this world of radiating images and messages to find something that is true and real. i spend every day of my life trying to create something that i can say is authentic. i spend every day of my life trying to find something that can make me believe in other people. that perhaps the people that have hurt me, perhaps the people that have hurt others are anomalies. or that at least, there are people out there that get it. you get it. capital i it. go ahead and capitalize the t--with the risk of looking like the title to the clown movie. so, i guess what i am saying in all of this is thank you--thank you for having the courage to share your life with people because, whether you know it fully or not, it can really make a person feel a little less alone in a world where they are constantly surrounded. if i know anything though, i know that your dad is proud of you. i can say that without a doubt.

merry christmas/happy hannukah/happy holidays/happy new year

all the best,


Anonymous said...

my dear, mlb. you are a beautiful, beautiful human being and I am so happy that this world gets to know you, just a bit more, through your words, through your writing. and, as caitlinmae wrote, i know that your dad would be incredibly proud of you. hands down. you are loved, through and through.

i miss you and our little home.

love, nar

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say about this. I think it was the coincidence that knocked me over: my father was born on December 31st too. I can only think about him in quick glancing blows--if I linger to long or too lovingly, I feel like tearing my throat out, want to bleed all over the snow, want to breathe in ragged slow-motion. I can't pretend to know anything about how you feel, but this post really hit home for me, in that uncomfortable heart/diaphragm place. Thank you. (I think.)

sascha said...

I never comment. I never have the words. But this was beautiful and heart breaking and deserves something. Even if only this nothing.


Anonymous said...

very touching. lovely.

Mercury said...

so beautiful.
you are super-duper gifted, like. amazing.
although I can't relate to the dad part, I relate to the feelings part, I am like a feelings connoisseur, I don't think anyone can have a feeling I can't relate to, but anyways: you depicted yours exceptionally well, you leave me with this image of you in a backseat of a car staring through a roof that has magically become transparent at a super-starry sky, and the cinematography of this in my brain is like the opening credits to Quantum Solace, which I think the opening credits were better than the movie itself, by at least five times.

you leave me with this sensation like calmness and sadness and beauty of things that are big when you are far away and the edifices that tower over you when you stand beside them compare well to the size of your fingernail on your pinky, and it all looks so delicate, although you know it's not.

I love the theme of the sky and and flying, I love the orange wedge, I love all of it, every word you wrote.

Bourbon said...

This post makes me breathe differently. It is truly, truly the best, most real, most beautiful thing I've ever read and if we were real life friends I'd hug you really hard.

I've always been confident that you will get there, that place you want to be.

Haviland said...

Marie Lyn Bernard gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

That was the most honest and beautiful thing I've ever seen on here. If I knew people who knew people, I'd send one to give you a hug.

You will make it.

dani said...

it's been a long time but i'm so glad that i came to your blog today...
it makes me smile, it makes me wanna cry and it makes me amazed.
happy holidays.

Anonymous said...

A truly beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Amazing. This is why I come back

Anonymous said...

I wish I could give you what you're looking for. Like, it's impossible, but I've thought about it. Sometimes I miss your dad too, even.
I hope that when you find it, you're still writing your blog so I can read all about it.

Lew said...

I haven't cried over dad in ten years. I don't really know what to say except thanks.

The Brooklyn Boy said...

Yer a good kid, Riese. And one helluva writer. Keep doin you, eh?

Anonymous said...

someday we're going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro cause i'll still be here, and you'll still be here and we'll still be in this together.

Lie down, tell me what you need.
Here is where loneliness can live
with failure,
and nothing's complete.
I love how we go on

Becky said...

He would be proud of you.

love xxxx

Anonymous said...

Marie, this is the you I know. Good job.

Happy holidays!

a. said...

So fantastic. I hope you accomplish all your goals, childhood dreams and then some.

Jo said...

I find that the blog posts you write that I feel most compelled to comment on are just so beautiful and honest that nothing I could say in a comment could do your words justice. I will say this though: from what I've learned about you through your blog, I can't imagine your Dad would be anything but incredibly proud of you.

MoonKiller said...

I don't know what to say really other than that was stunning. And I'm sort of blubbering like baby. But thanks, that was amazing.

elliB said...

Sometimes, after reading something amazing, I feel like an imposter. I call myself a writer (used to, anyway) and then I see what others can do with words... and I stop. This blog did that to me. What you can do with words is amazing. I laugh, smile, cry and hold my breath when I read your words. I can't imagine that your father isn't proud.

Anonymous said...

that was intense and beautiful.
Keep it up

Meghan said...

This is the work you are here to do.

I'm totally crying.

sameera said...

absolutely brilliant.

this really touched me, somewhere way down in the depths of my pitted heart, in so many ways that i can't even begin to explain. i think the first anonymous message gives you the gist of what i wish i could say.

and yes, like so many others have already said, i can't imagine your father not being proud of who you are and what you do. i know that this probably doesn't really mean anything, but like everything else i've said, i truly feel it.

much love,

laura said...


you have this ability to turn something agonizing and ugly and confusing into something so wonderful. it’s that kind of heartbreak that comes with really, really good songs; the kind that says what you’ve felt and everything you haven’t felt, but more beautifully than you ever could.

and if you want to keep traveling, i think you'll have someone in every city who loves you and wants to show you where they live.

riese said...

I can't respond to comments like I usually do on this bit of automatic writing ...

I just kinda want to let it be -- what you said, what you haven't said yet (you know, future comments & past comments) and not change what you said by responding to it. I don't know if that makes sense but it does to me, I hope that's okay.

Just know I appreciate every word, every read, every everything, for serious.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about you a lot over Christmas...I'm a weird stranger, and don't have the pretense to think I know you, or to think my words matter. Anyway, you're/this is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading for a while but as a person who doesn't like to say things unless I think I have something fantastically original to say (which, usually, I don't, because other people beat me to it), I have never actually commented.

This time, though, despite the fact that I still don't have anything fantastically original to say, I'm going to comment anyway, and say that you are a striking writer and have an uncanny ability to convince me that I must somehow actually know you. (Is that a bit creepy? Maybe.)

In all seriousness, thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

I've never been able to comment your blogs. Perhaps that's because I felt it wouldn't make a difference to anyone or anything. And it probably still doesn’t. Who cares, really? Anywho I just wanted to say… This is amazing. Point blank. I’ve been reading The Bell Jar for the gazillion time now, I think? And I can’t stop thinking. It’s the kind of thinking that can’t be explained because what you’re trying to make out can’t fit into words. I feel that your words are the closest to reality. Truth. Like you could squeeze into the space between them and find something. Ups, downs, in-betweens, openness, and mere nothingness. While also being hilarious, you can hit on those wordless subjects. (Does any of that make sense?) Well, it's beautiful. Thanks for sharing and best wishes.


Liz said...

I dont know what to say. You said it all.

I want to hug you. but a cyberhug wont do.

You are brave. I just talk to an old photo.

Cara said...

beautifully written, as always. i cant imagine your dad not being proud of you.

Anonymous said...

I don't have the gift of responding in the way that this deserves, but I did want to thank you for it.

Queers United said...

fancy discovering your blog, congrats on being nominated best LGBT blog

Anonymous said...

salient, organic, authentic.
this is the writing that will make you famous. this is the writing that draws us in.

asher said...

"I think I have some things to say and I’m hoping there are people willing to listen."

There are. I am. Ready and willing.


Roxy said...

I don't know how, but I missed reading this before. But now I have and, like others, feel a comment of some sort is in order. I'm crying right now and not sure when the tears will stop trickling down, but thank you for this. It hits close to home to me as well and my throat is closing up a bit, but it only helps me to appreciate what/who I've got today. This was very brave of you to post. I'm sure he's proud. We all are.