Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Steve Almond. His new book, William Stoner and the Battle for the Inner Life, is available from Ig Publishing.

 

This is Steve’s fourth time on the program. He first appeared in Episode 9, on October 16, 2011, and again in Episode 302, on August 10, 2014, and Episode 513, on April 8, 2018.

Almond is the author of ten books of fiction and nonfiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football. Last year, he published Bad Storiesa literary investigation of what the hell just happened to our country, which he wrote to keep from going crazy. (You can find his latest rants here or here.)

Get the free Otherppl app.

Support the show at Patreon or via PayPal.

Dad? Are you high?

By Zoe Brock

Essay

Not so long ago, on a rare San Francisco day of surprising warmth and humidity, I was sitting at my nice orderly desk when an email appeared in my nice orderly inbox.

“Ping,” said my Google Notifier.

“Ooo,” said I. “Somebody loves me.”

The Google Notifier said nothing in response and I took it’s silence to mean that it was brimming over, like a fat and happy porcelain Buddha, with benign agreement.

I was right.

Somebody did love me…… and I am grateful.


That morning an almost sickly-sweet jasmine-scented breeze was blowing through my curtains and threatening to destroy my newest art-work. Like randy teenagers at an unchaperoned party the fine threads of my mobile danced together, much too closely, libidinous and teasing, flirting, tantalizing, making promises and whispering secrets. The  ancient photographic paper, like the very fabric of my small, cloistered reality, was in danger of ripping…

… so I got up and, with one last, grateful inhale of flowery air, I prudishly closed the window on breezy San Francisco, locking her outside to play with her other friends.

I wasn’t worried, she has many.

Once those windows were closed all sound abated. I was in a vacuum and all became still, muted…. and yet somehow quite dense. On this day my very white room felt more like a sanctuary than a sanatorium, a lucky occurrence that has as much to do with my mood as it does with the weather. On this day I was Home, and I was Happy. It was the perfect environment to be in when I opened my email and discovered these pictures-

The man-child in these photos is my father.

I had never seen these images, nor any of the ones that follow.

I was stunned.

There he is, my daddy, in all his youthful splendor, not quite a man and yet no longer a child.

Playing, preening, posing, entertaining, acting the fool – a rock-star artist lunatic.

He looks high.

If he isn’t high then he sure knows how to pretend to be.

My father died in 2001. I never knew this version of him. I knew the later incarnations, the older, more jaded, disappointed and infinitely wiser and wearier versions of this creature I now found before me. The person in these photos is an innocent- a naughty, cheeky, confident kid- full of swagger and sex and adventure.

I was, and am, completely taken aback by these photographs. They do not make me sad but they do intrigue and confuse me. The guy in these photos is My Father, but his obvious youth and the striking physical resemblances we share trick me into thinking he is, despite my being an only child, my brother. I recognize him as much as I see a total stranger. These pictures overwhelm me. I cannot ask him where they were taken, or even who by. I cannot ask him what he was thinking, hoping, dreaming… or what happened in the years between this recorded day and the year of my birth to temper his innocence. I cannot ask him anything.

He’s dead.

I stare at these pictures, here in my clean, white space and feel certain of only one thing….

The guy in these pictures is one of Us. That guy is someone I’d like to hang out with. Get drunk with. Talk shit with. He looks like any one of a bunch of San Francisco neo-hipsters that loiter in the cafe’s along Valencia, or lean against warehouse walls with paint on their fingers and smirks on their lips.

He was a special creature. And, much to my amazement, a better, more daring artist than he ever let on. Maybe he forgot? Maybe he lost that part of himself? Maybe he just got bored and moved on… but I know for certain that, despite his dabblings in ceramics and the totem poles he was carving when he died, he never painted anything in my lifetime like the canvas he is working on here.

It’s fascinating to me that I can find a new facet to my dad so many years after his passing.

I’m so proud and impressed. I feel bigger and greater and more powerful knowing I have his blood and passion inside me. He could play, inspire, create, amuse, reprimand, take no shit and always encourage.

In his honor I will continue to play, preen, pose, entertain, be a fool and a goddess and a rock-star-artist-lunatic… although something ever so unsubtle is telling me that I probably have no choice.

The proof is in the pictures.

This one’s for you, dad. x


Comment by Bruce King 2009-02-17 03:51:41


Zoe,
It is with considerable delight and interest that I “accidentally” discovered your wonderful chronicles by searching Google for snippets relating to my old mate, Warwick. Your Dad was one of my closest friends in Christchurch back in the early to mid 1960’s. We partied wildly and sang together heaps; in fact we often performed together at some of the great folk venues around town in those halcyon days—before Brock & Eggs, before Lyttelton, before the wheel . . . if you know what I mean. Could I have met you in your early childhood at that wonderful house overlooking the Port of Lyttelton? Recently I (amazingly, through a common interest in woodworking) met the German woodcrafter who currently lives there. Just the other day, I unearthed a poster I had done for the occasion of the Wellington Folk Festival several years ago (I am a retired graphic designer—a career choice in no small way inspired by your Dad). This visual chronology, in the form of a photomontage, has many pictures of Warwick, along with his old friend Bruce King, alias yours truly. If you would like a copy I’ll email a pdf to you, just say the word. The last time (literally) I saw your Dad was in Newtown, about 10 or 12 years ago. He and Cath lived a couple of streets away from Owen Street where my Mum used to live. I have never before seen the photos you have shared on this site—marvellous. I do miss his indomitable spirit and wicked laughter! Go well, Zoe, Bruce
PS: My wife Jessica and I live in Golden Bay where we are currently applying the final touches to our new adobe hacienda. What a joy!