Oct. 23, 2008
Welcome Home, Children
In the early spring I get together with all the people I've been
in my past lives. We sit around the table at my grandfather's
farmhousemashed potatoes, creamed peas, cornbread. There's
the Confederate colonel with his mustache and battlefield odor.
The medieval peasant from Portugal with insects in her hair. The
Irish boy who died from the fever at nine. There's the patient wife
of the fishmonger. The petty thief from Cathay who's already
stuffed his pockets with my grandmother's paperweights. My
favorite is the Hindu monk. His orange robes. The sacred paint
across his forehead. He's never reconciled his lust for women and
steals glances at the dancer from Babylonmy first life. Her long
dark hair. The thin veils draped over her shoulders. She loves
to lean across the table for the marmalade, exposing her breasts
for him to see. After dinner she excuses herself and walks into
the garden. He follows. I'm not sure if it's just a natural kind of
thing One incarnation of mine seducing another Or an act
so vile even Narcissus would have gagged.
It was on this day in 2001 that Apple released the iPod. The first iPod had a hard drive of five gigabytes, and when it was released, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that the little device could put "1,000 songs in your pocket."
It's the birthday of Augusten Burroughs, (books by this author) born Christopher Robison in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1965). He's the author of the best-selling memoir Running with Scissors, based on his teenage years. He said, "When I was 13, my crazy mother gave me away to her lunatic psychiatrist, who adopted me. I then lived a life of squalor, pedophiles, no school and free pills."
While he was growing up, his parents fought all the time. His mother ate cigarette butt-and-peanut butter sandwiches and had all sorts of psychiatric disorders. She used to beat his alcoholic father, who was a math and philosophy professor. He said that his parents argued so much that Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf was the "closest thing he had to a home movie."
He kept a record of all these experiences. His parents gave him a tape recorder as a gift, and when he was nine, he started talking into it. And he began keeping a journal as a teenager.
His parents went to therapy but still split up. And when he was 13, his mom sent him to live with her psychiatrist, Dr. Rodolph Turcotte. The doctor's wife ate dog food while watching television. Dr. Turcotte believed that God was trying to communicate with him through his feces. When Augusten needed an excuse not to go to school, the doctor arranged a fake suicide attempt.
Burroughs finally ran away and settled in San Francisco. He got a high-paying job at an ad agency, but he was addicted to crack cocaine and drinking heavily. Before he got to the office in the morning, he would spray cologne on his tongue to hide the smell of whiskey. His coworkers convinced him to enter rehab. After 30 days, Burroughs emerged sober, and within a couple of weeks, he had written his first novel, Sellevision (2000). The book was moderately successful, and he was encouraged to write about his childhood experiences. He said, "I thought my childhood was a disgusting mess so I never thought anyone would be interested in reading about it, even with a gallows humor." But his memoir, Running with Scissors, became a publishing phenomenon, staying on the New York Times Bestseller List for four consecutive years. It was made into a feature film in 2006.
He said, "The secret to being a writer is that you have to write. It's not enough to think about writing or to study literature or plan a future life as an author. You really have to lock yourself away, alone, and get to work."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®