Listen: Marc Mitchell has come unstuck in time.
He once had lunch with someone--this was years ago--who wrote reviews and articles and assorted miscellanea for The New Yorker. The someone, a man twice Marc's age, said this to him: You're a good writer. If you ever want to go to Bread Loaf, I'll write your rec.
Bread Loaf is a writer's colony. Bread Loaf works like this, according to their website: "For the past 86 years, the workshops, lectures, and classes, held in the shadow of the Green Mountains, have introduced generations of participants to rigorous practical and theoretical approaches to the craft of writing, and given America itself proven models of literary instruction. Bread Loaf is not a retreat—not a place to work in solitude. Instead it provides a stimulating community of diverse voices in which we test our own assumptions regarding literature and seek advice about our progress as writers."
Sounds great, right?
The someone who offered to write a rec for Marc to go to Bread Loaf had a lot of stories about other writers he'd met, and a lot of stories about himself, and a lot of stories about his time at Bread Loaf. And about his life in Connecticut, about his life with his partner of fifteen years, etc. We all have a lot of stories. We should share them as freely as this someone did.
Marc met this someone by accident. He'd been fooling around online, which is what one does online: fool around. He was fooling around in a gay chat room, and mentioned an article he'd just read.
Quite unexpectedly, the person he mentioned the article to identified himself as the author of the article. Small world.
More chats followed. A meeting at an Upper East Side restaurant. A discussion about writing. A light chiding from the someone that Marc's online age did not match his real-world age. Other things.
Someone revealed that he worked for the Bush administration.
Marc swallowed a thick shot of whiskey. "But." Marc weighed his words then tossed out the scale. "How can you work for the Bush administration when you're gay and an academic? That's like working for Genghis Khan while being a humanitarian vegetarian celibate."
"I was hired by the administration," someone said, "to assess the damage done to the library in Baghdad."
"So you're a librarian, or are you a Republican?"
"Republican," someone said. "I voted for him, and I'll be watching the inauguration parade from a corner office in D.C."
Second inauguration, by the way. Someone and I had our lunch together just before the second inauguration of GWB. I'd spent all summer and fall campaigning against GWB. Someone had spent all summer campaigning for him. Both someone and I spent the same period coming home to men we loved, and having copious amounts of unsanctioned gay sex.
Turns out both conservatives and liberals can have copious amounts of unsanctioned gay sex.
Someone sent me an email not long after our lunch. Late at night. Mostly the email was about his dog and his partner and his house in Connecticut. There was, though, one little tidbit at the end.
GWB had just been sworn in. I was bitter. I was still confused about how a gay man with a life I'd love to have--nice house, cute dog, reliable life-partner, great career--could work for a man, a president, I found reprehensible.
"Looking forward," someone said, via email, "to getting to work assessing the library in Baghdad."
"Your work wouldn't be necessary," I shot back, "if your boss hadn't invaded the country for no reason. Be careful," I continued, ripping a line off from Vonnegut, "what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be."
And that was the last I ever heard from the somebody who wrote for The New Yorker, worked for GWB, and offered to write me a rec should I ever decide to go to Bread Loaf.
Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.
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