021: cal (nanowrimo #1)

well, i got the new office. took me three years of hard work and dedication for less-than-stellar pay, but i got it. now gary gets to sit by himself in that stuffy old cubicle, the little shit. two years ago i would’ve felt bad for him, but the guy’s nothing but a bunch of body odor and strange throat-clearing noises, so fuck him. now i get an office with a window view, and don’t feel like an asshole when i’m talking to clients about their traumatic lives in the midst of a group of dumbfuck twentysomethings.

my name’s cal. i have a master’s degree in creative writing, can you believe that? people still give degrees for useless talents. after graduating at the ripe young age of 25, i spent the next five years attempting to start a career writing poetry in chapbooks. do you know what a chapbook is? of course you don’t, you’re not a poet, nor do you care about poetry. (i’m kind of wondering why you’re even reading this, to be honest.) chapbooks are little poetry anthologies, usually self-published by poets. they’re the zines of the poet world. poets compile them and then sneak into their kinkos job after hours and make a thousand copies, which they hand staple into little books that they then convince some dopey used bookseller to sell at the front of their dilapidated store. right next to the cash register from 1975 and the odd european chocolate bars they imported for some completely oblivious reason.

i have two such chapbooks sitting unread at abigail’s books, a used bookstore located in abigail’s old house, effectively turning said house into a creepy manor and a boring stuffy mess simultaneously. “goat notes” was the first one: 25 poems about or inspired by goats. i wrote it because i was working part time at a farm in troutdale and i spent a lot of time with goats. i spent a lot of time with cows, pigs, and a llama named steve, but this farmer had a lot of goats, and every morning my job was to sit beside a couple of lady goats and pull on their tits until a bucket filled up with milk. these kinds of jobs seemed “below me” at the time, but in the grand scheme of things, pulling on animal tits is what made us human. once i realized this, i started writing gems of poetry that my publisher has asked me again and again to reprint in this book. unfortunately i will not do this. if you really want to read them, travel to abigail’s books in the heart of darkness that is outer southeast portland. i’m sure they still exist, swathed in dust.

anyway, i worked as a farmhand and wrote poetry on the side, “published” a couple of chapbooks and then decided it was a fool’s errand to try to be an artist in the world. the united states is not a country that breeds artists, but it likes to make you think that. truth is, most artists are from harvard and their parents bought them everything they needed in order to succeed. people like me who get master’s degrees in art are basically buying a piece of paper guaranteeing the government that i am going to pay 6.8% interest on $75,000 worth of student loans for the rest of my life. it’s sad, when you really think about it — america is feeding off of these people who really believe they’re going to be rich and/or famous. instead we have frustrated artists roaming the streets looking for anything that resembles a job. they’re like the entitled dust bowl travelers of the depression, only more depressing.

i was one of those guys, but i acted like my farmhand work was building my writing character. i’d wake up at 4:30 every morning, milk the hell out of some goat tits, bundle hay, take a nap, and my pay would be a place to live, a small stipend, and a shitload of eggs. i’ve never eaten so many eggs in my life. i don’t think i can ever again. my girlfriend rosie tried to make me eggs the first morning i stayed over at her place and i told her to throw them out of the window before i puked. but i kept working there because i thought the experience would get some really good material out of me. and it did, i guess, but certainly not enough to warrant a book deal or anything. after a couple of years of milking goats i decided to quit and find full time work, and now, here i am, three years later, with my own office at a law firm. my roommates in college would call me a sellout, but at least i can afford to live and eat and go out with friends. art is good and fun but so is being alive and eating steak every once and a while. plus, arguably my coworkers at the firm are much more … normal, than artists. they’re more normal but they screw up more often, whereas all my writing friends seemed flawless but were batshit crazy. me, i’m probably somewhere in between.

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