Recent Work By James B. Frost

It has become de rigueur for writers to write essays about what their parents have done to them–those vivid, haunting moments when everything changed and a young life was damaged forever. Few people, though, tell the opposing stories, the unforgivable things that we’ve done to our parents: mom’s wedding ring dropped in the toilet and flushed; dad’s convertible wrapped around a traffic light; and worse, the disowning, that time-honored tradition of deciding in our twenties that our parents are too backassward to deserve our respect.

We make amends. We grow out of our snobbery. But what I did to my father on December 28th, 1975 was more unforgivable than any of the usual offenses.

I did it this morning. I threw away the “Smith Family Reunion: We’ve Come This Far by Faith” T-shirt, which I wore for years despite not being a Smith and not having any faith. Into the bathroom garbage also went an “I’m Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs” T-shirt, which I wore as some kind of ironic comment on corporate marketing to toddlers. Old, holey, too-small, rock T-shirts of concerts I never attended—gone. Even my beloved baseball cap that read “Gooseberry Pie” found its way into the pile of discarded floss.

It was the summer of 2004, and like most liberals, I was absolutely steaming out the ears about George W. Bush.  Unlike most liberals, though, I had taken it upon myself to write a novel about it.

Looking back, I’m not sure what exactly I was thinking.  Even if I had completed the book in three months, it would never have reached an audience before the 2004 elections. But regardless, there I was, sitting in hipster cafes on Portland’s Alberta Street, writing a novel about a preacher who had gathered together an odd bunch of bicyclists and zinesters and strippers, and who was preaching to them about the evils of the Bush Administration.

Numerology

By James B. Frost

Essay

Not long after my thirtieth birthday I went to see a numerologist. I did so on the whim of my new-age girlfriend, who purchased the session for me as a birthday gift.

Writing non-fiction used to be hard.  Journalists would spend months researching a topic, pulling their hair out with the devastating thought that their careers might be over if they got the story wrong.  Memoirists would contact the subjects in their books, haunted with the idea that getting the facts wrong might damage someone’s life or career.

I wear many hats. Not necessarily well, but I wear them. One of the hats I wear is that of “technical writer.” Recently, I got a gig writing for the company Intel, which as everyone knows makes those smallish, sort of alien-looking things that are inside your computer making it run–microprocessors. That’s really all the Average Joe knows about Intel–it’s a company full of smart people that helps make their computers run–and that’s about all he cares to know.

My divorce sent me spinning. But not necessarily in a bad way.

Before January of this year, I harbored the illusion that the life I was living was a life I would basically live until the day I died. I would be married to the woman who mothered my children, I would write novels, and I would participate yearly in some sort of male demon-exorcising ritual—I’d run a marathon, or climb Mt. Hood, or spend a week at Cycle Oregon with my brothers. The stability made me happy, even if the marriage was quarrelsome and the novels a financial sinkhole. I was a respectable American citizen.

On Faith

By James B. Frost

Essay

My mother is the most appropriate religious person I know. She prays daily, goes to church whenever she can, volunteers at a local homeless shelter, gives money to charity, reads book after book about religion, and never once talks about it to the faithless, unless of course they ask. It hurts her, deeply, that of her seven children only one remains religious, and yet as she’s aged, she’s learned to keep her hurt to herself as best she can. Every once in a while she slips up and mails me a news clipping—something about the evils of the latest Harry Potter book—but I’ve reached an age where, given the depth of her beliefs, I see this as restraint rather than proselytizing.

I am very unhappy.I am in the South of France, in a villa set in a vineyard, where bottle after bottle of Cote du Rhone wine is brought to me every day, alongside exotic cheeses, slices of country ham, and baguettes.I am with a woman who takes pleasure in my pleasure.None of this did I have to pay for.

An oddly-phrased line from Kevin Sampsell‘s book A Common Pornography struck me the other day.

“I liked her because she was easy, because I’m easy too.”

As I posted earlier this month, I’m going through a divorce. One of the interesting corollaries to my divorce is that, in general, it’s brought me closer to male acquaintances, friends, and siblings, while further from their female counterparts. My male friends seemed to get how to behave naturally, while I’ve wanted, at times, to knock on woman-skulls to see if anybody was home. Here’s what men seem to know that women don’t about how to treat a man going through a divorce:

I’m getting a divorce.I know, I know, it’s horrible, just terrible, let’s all look at the floor and tell me how sorry you are for me, while I mumble “I’m fine.The kids are doing well.I’m taking care of myself.”