I have been blessed with 6 parents. One of whom (my birth mother) I actually get along with because all she does is love me, just the way I am.
If you also define “getting along with” as including an unbridled amount of passion, angst, confusion, madness, heartbreak and love, then I got along with my birth father exceedingly well until he died.
When my birth mom was here visiting me last week, the subject of Neptune & Surf came up. That was my first book. An incredibly exciting moment for me when that book got published in 1999. By then, I’d been a professional fiction writer for 10 years and finally had my first book published.
It was received really well in England and it sold really well all over the world, for the type of book it was. It broke my heart that most people called it pornography, because I never, ever saw that book in that light. That book was my heart. I still feel I missed the mark with “The Mercy Cure” (one of the 3 novellas in the book) but that book was still my heart. It wasn’t until the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, had me in Federal Court looking at prison time for being a “pornographer” that I finally acquiesced to that label in public. But whatever. Give me a great big scarlet “P” to wear, I don’t fucking care. My writing is my life.
My birth mom not only still has her copy of the original edition of Neptune & Surf, she was really proud of me when the book came out. And she told me last week that she still has my original typewritten manuscripts for “The Mercy Cure” and ” Gianni’s Girl” in the drawer in the night table next to her bed.
That is someone who loves me.
The rest of my family, for the most part, consider my writing more of an aberration than anything else. One relative, at the height of my career pre-John Ashcroft, declared at a family dinner that I was a “hack writer.” Mind you, she hadn’t even read any of my books. You can guess that I don’t attend family get-togethers anymore.
You might find my work offensive, disgusting, disturbing – but I’m not a hack writer. I labor over every sentence, just like anyone else.
Next year, Neptune & Surf will have officially remained in print for 20 years. Twenty years of uninterrupted publication. Trade paper, mass market, hard cover, a book club edition, 2 French language editions, and now Hachette in the UK has had it as an eBook for a number of years. You can even get illegal downloads of Neptune & Surf online without having to look too hard, and I don’t even mind at this point, you know?
As far as some of my other “parents”…
I had one stepmother – a very, very long time ago – who was very good to me. When I met her, I was 14 and she was 27 – an ex-cocktail waitress who had kind of hit paydirt and married my dad. She was sweet, scared, overwhelmed, full of love, and she drank a lot. My (adoptive) dad eventually chewed her up and spat her out. It took him a number of years to do it, but he did. And he did the same to me. But life went on.
And all these decades later, I am – what is the word; misguided enough? compassionate enough? – to try to maintain some sort of civil relationship with him because he is old now.
However, trying to get through even a 10-minute phone call with him, as I did last night, requires heavy combat attire. It requires an amazing amount of self-protective force-fields – none of which I have. I always go into these phone calls thinking, “Oh he’ll be so happy to hear my latest good news.” But he never is. He is so mean.
In 10 minutes, I am completely degraded, demoralized, defenseless. Helpless. And I always very cheerfully end with, “Well, have a good week. Take care of yourself.” (And he’s the adoptive parent that I sort of get along with. We won’t go into the other one. Jesus.)
I’d had an okay day yesterday, work on the new novel wasn’t stellar, but I’d gotten a little good work done on it. I was feeling very, very positive about everything – the theater stuff in NYC with Sandra; the TV pilot re-writes. My new novel, and the new novel in progress that’s right next to it. The chance to re-record a dozen of my songs from my singer-songwriter days with Peitor out in LA.
It had all felt really good.
And yet, there I was, at 9PM, in my PJs with my winter coat thrown over top of them, my Wellies on, standing in my dark backyard in the middle of a wonderful nowhere in the Hinterlands where pretty much no one can find me; and I was listening to Tom Petty really loud in my earbuds, singing “Only A Broken Heart.” Under the endless black sky. And I was crying. So many years of fucking abuse. It felt like the only friend I had in the world was Tom Petty, and he’s dead, gang.
What kind of a fucking way is that to end a good day? I’ll tell you, it’s the kind of day that involves a 10-minute phone call with my dad.
Today is a new day and the morning began with coffee – my very favorite way to begin a day. Hello, coffee! How are you?
Year after year after year, it does not degrade, belittle, or demoralize me in reply. Yay for coffee. I’m gonna try to make this a really great day.
I hope you will do the same, gang. Thanks for visiting!! See ya.