Thursday, June 28, 2007
An evening in the life....

I don't drink, as a rule. Alcohol just doesn't do much for me. I also don't drive much. I've lived the majority of my life in a smallish town where you can get anywhere important by walking less than a mile. For about twelve of my fifteen years living here, I've never even owned a car.

This, combined with a tendency toward losing things, mean that I rarely carry a photo ID on my person.

These are the things you need to understand if you're going to appreciate this story.

I was in the grocery store buying food because I had company coming over. A few of the students I have come to know well in the last couple years are graduating soon. One of the best of these is leaving this Sunday. She and one other particularly bright and shining student have been good friends to me this last year. We go to each other's houses for dinner, watch movies, and talk honest talk into the late hours of night. We are comfortable and loving and non-judgmental with each other. They are graduating and moving on with their lives, and I am staying here and moving on with mine.

This, I think, will be what makes me leave my job as a teacher eventually. Not the low pay, or the high workload, or lack of professional respect because I don't have enough letters behind my name. Those things are familiar and bearable, like the smell of the papermill when the wind blows from the south. But good friends are rare to me, and I have no knack for letting go of people I care about. I can't imagine what will happen to me if this happens every couple years for the next decade.

But there will be plenty of time for me to be melancholy when they are gone. So now I'm simply glad of their company when I can get it, and I'm trying to catch as much quality time with them as I can before they leave.

Hence the grocery store. This is a purely recreational shopping run. My house is already stocked with everything I need to survive: ramen and pasta and microwave burritos. I have simple tastes, but I want to be a good host. So I buy cherries and apples and cheese and bread. I buy pistachios and chocolate and soy ice cream for the friend who has a lactose intolerance.

Then I think to buy some wine. My friends enjoy wine and I enjoy being a good host. I also occasionally like to try a glass of wine, like a child playing dress-up. It's fun for me because when I drink wine I get to pretend that I'm an adult.

So I go to the liquor section and browse around. My knowledge of wine could very easily be written entire onto the palm of my hand, so my choices are based on educated guessery and how cool the bottle looks. I pick out a swirly bottle and something with Asti on the label, because I'm pretty sure that means sweet. I like sweet.

When I get into the checkout line, I realize I don't have my ID on me. This usually ends up being an issue whenever I get it into my head to buy liquor. Sure, I look like I'm of age, but looks don't count for much. Once, when I was 26, I had an undercover policeman pull me out of a liquor store and ask to see my license. When I showed it to him, he raised a surprised eyebrow and shrugged, vaguely apologetic. "You weren't acting like you were old enough to be in there," he said. I took it as a complement.

So there I am in the grocery line with booze and no ID. I've been in this situation before. As I've mentioned, I rarely carry one. I never think of it until I get into the checkout line carrying a bottle.

I have a number of strategies for dealing with this. Normally I just play it cool, hoping that if I act like I buy booze all the time, they'll just let me through and not ask any questions.

This is my first line of defense, and it works about half the time.

When people ask to see my ID, it's usually all over. At that point my strategy varies depending on what mood I'm in. If the booze was an impulse buy, I usually just put it back. If I'm feeling particularly cussed, I'll argue. This doesn't work, but I do usually achieve a vague moral victory wherein I get the teller to say something along the lines of, "I'm only following orders."

Once, when somebody asked to see my ID I just raised an eyebrow and gave the teller a look. It was a look that said, "Come on. Just look at me. Witness my full and manly beard. I'm not some punk kid buying a bottle of strawberry Boone's Farm. I'm an adult." She gave me a sheepish, apologetic grin, and scanned my bottle of Baileys.

I smiled and said, "Thanks." But inside I was jumping up and down thinking, "Ha! I fooled you! I really am a punk kid! And I have a bottle of strawberry Boone's Farm at home in my fridge!"

So, again, I'm in the grocery line, running through my options and trying to pick my best strategy. I get to the front of the line, and I'm getting ready to try the raised eyebrow thing again, when the teller looks at me and says, "So when is book two coming out?" She scans my bottles without asking for any sort of ID.

I try to play it cool and say something suave about my revisions. But the truth is, I'm thrown by this. I'm not used to it. In the last month I've had people come up to me in at the DMV, at Best Buy, at the video rental place, and at the local ice cream shop (twice).

I know it's just a local phenomenon. Stevens Point is pretty small, and there have been a handful of "Local Boy Does Good" articles in the papers with unflattering but rather accurate pictures of me. Once you know what I look like, I'm easy to recognize. Generally speaking I look like a Russian dictator, or a Harry Potter character. Or a homeless guy. Or a Muppet.

That's all. I just wanted to share my surreal moment with you all. As with all my stories, I've wandered, but we do have an ending. This is the good place to stop if you want a happy one. There, at the store, things end with me feeling famous and cool, though somewhat flustered and uncomfortable. Possibly the first time in my life I've ever had anything resembling a fame-related perk.

If you keep following the story later into the night, the ending is bittersweet. A nice evening. Talk. Food. Wine. But it's the last evening, and the three of us know it.

Keep going and it the story ends dark. All stories do if you follow them long enough. One friend leaves sooner, the other later. We promise to stay in touch, but we don't, because that is the way of things. We'll try e-mail, but it won't be the same. Distance doesn't allow for intimacy. You can't chat over e-mail. Not really. You can't drink wine. Or hug. Or pretend to be grown-ups. Or pretend to be kids. They won't call when they're bored, and we won't get together to watch movies and give each other backrubs. They won't come over and ask for advice and bitch about the transient, incompetent men in their lives. I won't be able to lay on the couch with my head in someone's lap and cry because I miss my mom.

Early on it will be hard, and the absent ache of them will be constant, impossible to ignore as a missing tooth. It will get easier, because that is the way of things. Moving on is what people do. We're designed for it. We'll forget the feel of it, the closeness of dimly lit conversations, the smell of each other. In time we'll only remember each other in a vague, colorless way. Then even that will fade, and we won't realize that anything is missing from our lives at all.

Goodnight all,

pat

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22 Comments:

Anonymous Comm. Director said...

You write with such free-flowing grace that it sounds almost like music... from a lute. I can almost put a rhythm to your post and to the words you write.

That I think is why I like you as an author. I like your book, yes, as I like other books as well. But rare do I appreciate the author himself.

But you're different -- here, in the everyday, your words sound the same like you were writing a part of book 2. That feels like a genuine author to me. No, not authors of our century who are a dime a dozen, flooding bookstores with thousands of books a year. But you sound like an genuine author from a time when authors are rare. The time Twain, Leroux, and Hugo; the age of Shakespeare, of Dickens.

God (or society) don't make authors like you anymore.

June 28, 2007 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Michelle from Hudson said...

Pat,

I probaly should have stopped reading at checkout line...since all I wanted to say was that my step-sister who attends Stevens Point and is majoring in landscape design(!)has heard of you - she says you write a helluva column in the newspaper.

The price of fame...

June 28, 2007 9:17 AM  
Anonymous Mr Pudifoot said...

Now I remember why I enjoyed your book so much. It seems that many authors don't enjoy the language as much as you do. Very few authors seem like they truly love words and respect their power, and fewer still can have mastery over them. (i have only known one person in real life like that, and she recently died.) You folks are a rare lot, and are destined for big things.

p.s.: ok. that is the last flattering comment i will post. I just compared you to Darla Stafford, and even though you don't know who she is, it is high praise.

June 28, 2007 9:19 AM  
Blogger Wendy said...

Okay, I'm kinda weepy here after reading your last blog. Maybe it's because I'm in contact once again with my first 'serious' boyfriend out of high school, a man I haven't laid eyes on for twenty-five years, so the nostalgia button has been pushed, but I think it's more because your writing is so rich with the beauty and strangeness of walking around every day in a human being suit.
We are such an instant techno society and it's so easy to forget what has value. Your writing---book and blog---reminds me that connection is what I treasure most. Your book is about connection----connection with self, with others, with our own internal compass, with our hearts, and that's probably why I'll read every word you ever write for as long as I am able.
Thanks, Pat.
I needed that.

June 28, 2007 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Josie said...

After reading the other comments, I don't really know what to say. It seems that all the people who read your blog are almost as articulate as you are.

Reading this post made me happy, despite the sad topic. It's good to know you write so well all the time, wether it be a blog post or a novel. It makes you genuine.

On a lighter note, the story about the wine made me laugh. It's nice to know that being moderately famous has some perks.

June 28, 2007 10:21 AM  
Blogger Adam B. Shaeffer said...

My wife and I live in a University community and our church is full of students--grad students with their spouses and children, and undergrads too. So it is just the nature of our church that we have to say goodbye to people every December and June.

This year was an especially difficult one as we had to say goodbye to three friends who have truly become family to us over the past 2 years. It doesn't seem like it's been so short a time. So while I can't say I know exactly what you're feeling, I do know the pain of parting and the fear that things will never be the same again.

June 28, 2007 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Ryan said...

And sometimes, when friends are far away and you don't get to talk very often, those friends still think of you. And miss you. And you miss them. Old friends who were once as familiar to you as your favorite T-shirt and jeans still haunt the shadowed places of your mind and your heart.
Then, unknown to you, you give them a gift. You write a book. And for those friends, reading it is like having you there in the same room. Like having a conversation the way you used to when times were younger. It's a great gift, and much treasured.
The best part is, there are still more books to be completed. And your friends, Patrick, just can't wait for them.

June 28, 2007 11:17 AM  
Blogger Hob Gammidge said...

Awww I just wanna give you a hug Pat, and then a high five for being so damn awesome and famous.

June 28, 2007 12:01 PM  
Blogger TK42ONE said...

By the Gods, you DO look like a muppet! Hmmm, Animal? Fozzy? Not quite....

And while you do bear a slight resemmblence to Hagrid, I don't think that fits the best....

Maybe Jim Henson.....

June 28, 2007 3:51 PM  
Blogger Jeffery said...

I thought he looked more like a thin Kevin Smith. but maybe its just the beard.

June 28, 2007 5:01 PM  
Blogger Mary J. said...

*Hugs*
You are such a heart breaker!
You will always have a Hoosier groupie that thinks fondly of you. :-)

June 28, 2007 8:06 PM  
Blogger Althalus said...

I was gonna say hagrid too, heh.

June 28, 2007 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Thad A said...

I suggest re-reading the chapter after Kvothe's parent's die. You covered the subject of pain and how we handle it very well there..

June 29, 2007 1:38 AM  
Blogger Mathas said...

You do know how to pull on the heart strings friend. Good luck, and feel better.

June 29, 2007 8:54 PM  
Anonymous laura said...

first of all, i want to make an admission: i stayed away from your blog for a while because i was, frankly, flustered that you had flattered me by commenting that one of my comments was funny. i don't deal well with compliments of any kind, and i was, upon reflection, somewhat afraid that i might fail to be funny in future comments.

i take the internet WAY too seriously. i did get a husband out of it, but that's another story.

all this to say that i was stupid to stay away. i *puffy heart* pat's blog.

second, what you just blogged was so...um...right? or something. what i mean to say is that i've felt that thing, and in just that way. i'm not sure that there are many people out there who can do that - who can take a simple and universal experience like leaving a familiar place or person with whom you've known happy times (or having them leave you), and just fucking nail it with words. it sounds like such a simple thing to do, but it's not.

plus, you're kinda funny as shit.

what is up with that expression, anyway? "as shit," i mean. people seem to want to attribute a host of qualities to shit that don't really seem obvious, at least upon first glance. it's brownish and stinky and soft, but rarely funny, dumb or dope.

but i digress...

just thanks for that. that's all.

June 30, 2007 1:24 PM  
Anonymous laura said...

oh, and i wanted to point out one particular instance of your writing being spot fucking on, and i had to go look it up:

so kvothe and denner-addled denna are cuddled atop the greystone, waiting for the draccus to come get his fix, and kvothe is drawing "shallow breaths, not wanting to disturb her."

i've done that. that exact thing. you're so giddy and nervous that this thing might actually be happening to you and you don't want to fuck it up. and the legs going numb and the spooning and the arm under the head...those couple of pages brought that scene out of my own life back with such a poignancy, i could swear that you were there in the room with me (which, let's face it, would have been creepy). but then i just realize that it's another one of those things that happens to everybody at one point or another, and that you're just good enough a writer to bring us back to our own, personal greystone-tops.

so yeah. i should go do something productive with my day now.

June 30, 2007 1:54 PM  
Anonymous sucky writer said...

I have to second Laura. Not on her various and slightly disturbing comments on shit, but on the other thing, the one about you being so spot fucking on when you write about everyday events.
The sheer talent it takes to so truly convey such powerful and universal emotion is just staggering. I would trade in my left testicle and one whole foot for just half of your skill. If you toss in the beard I'll add a couple fingers to the tally, I could do alot with a nice poofy beard like that...

July 1, 2007 2:49 AM  
Anonymous Sucky writer said...

hmmm, it now occurs to me that I probably should have chosen another name.

Now if anyone were to address my comment, I will most likely be refered to as "Sucky"

Oh well.

July 1, 2007 2:51 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

SW: (That's better than "Sucky" don't you think?)

"I would trade in my left testicle and one whole foot for just half of your skill."

This cracked me up. Mostly because I was trying to think what exactly I would do if I started trading away parts of my writing skill in exchange for body parts. Would I keep them in jars, or have them grafted to myself, somehow.

Or perhaps, with enough shrewd dealing, I could somehow gather enough parts to create another whole person, frankenstein-style.

I'll pass on the secone half of the deal, though. You need your fingers for typing, and the beard is the sourse of all my power....

pat

July 1, 2007 3:39 AM  
Anonymous Sucky Writer said...

Wow. Now I can fully appreciate all of Laura's statments.

Your response to my comment has filled me with an immense pressure to perform. I'm having flashbacks here.

I now have only two choices. I can flee and never return, or, taking your comments as acceptance of my odd behavior, stalk you for the rest of my days...

On a, slightly, more serious note, I've been told I have very nice feet, you should totally take the deal.

Oh, and thanks, SW is alot better.

July 1, 2007 1:51 PM  
Blogger Sean T. M. Stiennon said...

Does this mean that if someone cuts off your beard, all your writing-mojo will evaporate, Samson style?

I recommend you stay far away from hedge-trimmers.

July 2, 2007 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Far away and long ago, I was taught one of life's most bittersweet lessons. The lesson was this, people grow and people change but, they don't always grow and change together.
It's a hard lesson, for sure, and I often find myself wondering about and missing people who were once closer to me than I was to myself, but of whom I now know nothing.
All that consoles me is the knowledge that we helped each other along while we were together.We taught each other much, and I'm sure they look back wistfully and remember me as well.
So, people grow and people change, and although they don't always grow and change together, I'm sure they always hold us in thier hearts.




Albiet, in far, dark, dusty corner most times.

July 12, 2007 9:01 PM  

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