Tuesday, September 16, 2008

this is water

it was a single pancake, almost as big as the plate it was served on, stuffed with with peanut butter, chocolate and bananas. no butter required, and maple syrup was applied sparingly. i took my time with it.

the game was a massacre, a blowout: the final score was 74-36 in favor of the sirens. it was an especially not good game for yours truly. post-mortem, when my team rolled our bruised bodies to the infield and offered our rivals the customary high-fives of defeat, i stood there with my arm extended, my palm enduring slap after slap after slap, feeling like i'd completely let down my team. i was so disappointed.

i had a lot riding on this game emotionally. things aren't going so great in other parts of my life (the sort of "not so great" that requires a lawyer, for example), so i have been throwing myself into derby training. maybe it's irrational, but i was convinced that if my team had a good game, and if i performed well in it, that things would be better -- that everything else that is shitty right now might stink just a little less. instead, i rolled off the track saturday night feeling empty and discouraged. everything that was already shitty became full-blown diarrhea. what was the point?

in the fight crew dressing room after the game, as my teammates placated themselves with pizza and beer, i received this text message from my roommate: "david foster wallace committed suicide yesterday."

my reaction was visceral. i let out a yelp, which became a cry, and i'm sure anyone who was watching assumed that i was blubbering over fight crew's loss. "oh my god," i said. tears rolled down my cheeks, and i stared at my cell phone as if it had betrayed me.

i don't think i've ever had such a strong emotional reaction to the death of someone i didn't know. but i did know him, or at least felt like i did. there are a handful of writers who, when i read them, i experience something like a psychic brain connection, that uncanny sensation of holy shit, we're in each other's heads. it's the feeling of completely getting another person, and thinking that if i was as brilliant and talented, this, this writing, is exactly how i would communicate my experiences.

he lived 50 miles away.

DFW told david lipsky once in an interview, "If a writer does his job right, what he basically does is remind the reader of how smart they are. Wake the reader up to stuff that reader's been aware of all the time."

exactly. thank you, DFW, for articulating my experience of reading your work so well. you were doing your job right.

i never read infinite jest, that behemoth of a novel for which he is best known. it was DFW's nonfiction work that got me. my introduction was his essay, "a supposedly fun thing i'll never do again," about existential dread aboard a cruise ship, and it made a DFW devotee out of me. in his essays, i adore his trademark, copious footnoting, but in his fiction work, i find it stylistically tedious. so i've mostly stuck to his nonfiction over the years, a body of work substantial enough for me to feel justified in saying that he is among my most treasured, favorite writers.

if you've never read any DFW before, here is a good place to start: a transcription of the Kenyon commencement speech he delivered in 2005. i only discovered this speech yesterday, and its message, so hopeful and inspired and devoid of cynicism is a funny thing to read after you find out that its author hung himself.


i left the after party on the early side, and arrived back at my apartment before 1 a.m. as i walked up the driveway, still in my uniform, i could see a group of my neighbors gathered in the courtyard, drinking and talking, which was not an uncommon scene on a saturday night. as i approached the stairwell leading to Number Three, my domicile, i heard, "there she is! the roller derby superstar!" my building manager, marcie, came racing down the walkway, rolling toward me on red vintage roller skates. she fell into a bush at my feet.

"you were amazing tonight!" she said as she extracted herself from the bush's grip.

"you were there?"

"yeah! i think that was the greatest thing i've ever seen. and you were fantastic."

one of my neighbors jumped in. "it's all she's been talking about all night," he said. "and she's been rolling around the building on those skates."

"i don't think i had a very good game," i said. "my team got creamed."

"i thought you were great," she said. "i was totally blown away. i'm bringing everyone in the building to the next one and we're gonna have a cheering section for you."

despite the critical role that alcohol must've played in her perception of the game, i was, nevertheless, touched.

and when i woke up in the morning, after devoting a few hours to nursing my hangover, i went for a run -- aches and bruises be damned. i raced downstairs, and found marcie in the courtyard, watering the plants. as she dragged the hose along, distributing the spray among the jungly foliage, most of which she had planted herself, i noticed her limp. i was listening to my ipod, so we exchanged only a quick wave and a nod before i took off running.


sean said...

Wow, great speech by Wallace! And even better jamming by you!

When he's talking about knowing how to think so that you don't go insane during the drab existance that is daily life, I can completely relate (as I'm sure we all can, somehow). My best friend absolutely cannot stand traffic, so while sitting in it, he makes phone calls, texts people, gets angry, drives aggressively in a futile attempt to get home faster... He even hates stopping to get gas, like he's wasting time or something. He's basically "pissed and miserable" like Wallace says. I have a commute a little longer than my friends, and since I don't have (or want) a cellphone and hate being angry, I have learned to use that time. Now, after making this commute for almost 3 years, I have come to cherish it a bit. It's my "thinking time", and as evidence of this, I have both a notepad and a voice recorder in my car at all times. I've come up with my last 2 short films during that commute, and my next one. And audiobooks... Damn, I listen to ALOT of audiobooks!

And Wallace also talks alot about how things can be intepreted from two very different points of view (the God/eskimos story, etc). Which is exactly how I see your performance Saturday night. Where you see it as pretty bad, I think it was one of the most awesome performances by a Fight Crew (or any teams) jammer in the past year! You say "especially not good for yours truly", and I say just the opposite - exceptional game for you!! Yeah, they won, but damn, Judy, you were awesome! Totally on fire! If those VIP seats weren't so cramped, I would have been jumping up and down screaming! (I lost my vioce a little as it was). I mentioned it the other night to you (but I'm all shy and quiet when I don't know someone...) I've gotten so accustomed to seeing Mila just clean house when she's out there, and you so beat her! I really didn't think I would see that, not anytime soon, by any jammer on any team! It was totally unbelievable, and I was so happy to be wearing a Fight Crew shirt right then and there, no matter what the scoreboard said. And it wasn't just beating Mila that made it exceptional, that just happens to be the single event that seems to best summarize the match in my head. Fight Crew played an amazing game! I think you should have peanut butter, chocolate, and banana pancakes before EVERY game! ;) And your building manager saw it, too. She saw it from the perspective that wasn't yours. You rocked. (And, advise her to buy tickets early, since I bring more people with me every time, contributing to the selling out of tickets).

Something else that just absolutely astounds me about Fight Crew is Crystal being a blocker. She's so tiny, and she so totally throws herself into the other team, and even if they don't budge, she just keeps doing it! Amazing!

I don't know how anyone can be anything BUT a Fight Crew fan! You girls rule!

Sheesh, this is the longest response to a blog post I've ever written. I'm done now. :)

sean said...


someone at my work came up with the words, it was too good not to do.

Judy Gloom said...

very cute. thanks, sean.

and of course, thank you for the kind words, and your generous contribution to the fight crew uniform fundraiser. the attention we brought to our cause finally snagged us a sponsor. between our fundraising efforts and new sponsor, we are gonna have the snazziest, most ass-kicking uniforms in 09.