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" New Years Odd | 2009 | Possible Futures "

01.07.09 11:31 p.m.

Do you want to understand? The whole world is one of your eyes, the body produced by your parents is a cataract. All ordinary people ignore the indestructible, marvelously clear, unfailingly mirroring eye, and cling fast to the dust cataract produced by the relationship of their father and mother. Therefore they take illusions for realities, and grasp at reflections as the physical forms themselves.  



Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

It is a new year, a time for introductions or, for those of you who actually make a practice of following my writing, reintroductions. While I feel I am growing more consistent in who I am, I still acknowledge the nebulousness on a good many possibly crucial aspect of my identity. Beyond a few self-adhesive labels I flog, I do not spend a great deal of time focused on my own navel. As far as I know, it is still there and doesn't need much attention. If today I happen to be taciturn, so be it. If suddenly I am struck with my infinite Buddha nature while shopping for groceries, I will go with that as a facet of my self, but will not presume that this moment of flickering passes for "me." Even things written below are subject to some change. I don't ever want to be in a place in my life where I let the universe set around me like concrete because I have stopped learning and growing. (Or, apparently, stop spouting pseudo-axiomatic phrases in hopes that will substitute for a guided tour of the world inside my skull.)

What follows is, I'm afraid, in no particular order. Even putting it in more of an order seems oddly blasphemous.

My name is Thomm or - for those of me who know me only through the internet, Pagan communities, or feel that "Thomm" is too plain a name even with my unnecessary spelling - Xen. I'm just a few weeks into being twenty-eight, but about seventeen years into feeling ageless. I have a last name that I felt granted me unwelcome protrusion on either side of the school desk, but it is certainly memorable and leads one to ponder exactly what a "Thomm [My Surname]" might be. Certainly, he is different from a "Dennis Jones" or an "Alex Smith". (My mini-notebook suggests that I might mean "Alex Smithereens", which is certainly the sort of person I would love to know more about.) In my world, it pays to be just unusual enough to be memorable as people somehow translate this as "exotic" despite all contrary evidence. I feel, in the least flighty way possible, that I don't really know what my name should be. I've entertained the thought of new names, trying each on for no longer than I would take in a dressing room, but none seemed especially appropriate. Once, when I was mulling over getting married to a woman with an only slightly less unfortunate surname (Shedletsky), we used anagrams and randomness to come up with potential intermediate names that might suit our union, ultimately coming up with none we could agree upon (which is just as well, as we did not get married). I've mulled pen names (H.T. Waters, Thomm Quinn, Quinn Thomas, etcetera) but never really loved any better than my given name.

I have a Master's in Education that I don't know that I've ever use again, despite having taught both the gifted and the learning disabled and done quite well with both groups. I'm with Mark Twain in having never let my schooling interfere with my education, however I caution against pursuing schooling much beyond what is strictly necessary to appease your own ego or job aspirations. I have a brother who won't be done with his collegiate education until he is thirty and he is already farther in student loan debt than I am. I can remember only smatterings of what I learned at college, mostly in creative writing classrooms. This amnesia shouldn't cost me $300 a month, but it will until 2032. The majority of what I know, and certainly what I use daily, has come from my deciding to learn something on my own by simply faking it until I had it figured out or by reading books on the subject until I felt I could hold my own at a cocktail party (not that anyone invites me to any...). I am a huge proponent of autodidactism for anyone who can do it without going mad. School shouldn't be stultifying, but it is almost by its design. As such, I am an advocate of drastic repurposing of public education.

I am a Discordian, a term that sounds a great deal harsher than it actually is (a joke masquerading as a religion or a religion masquerading as a joke). It is hard to take a belief structure contingent on laughing and going with the flow seriously, of seeing the world as more Tao than Zen, but I do a good job of it. Life is a pleasure you learn from and you should take it lightly to let it flow through you. You probably won't be getting a second chance. This is a branch of Neo-Paganism, one that I find a great deal more personally vital than pretending that some pervert named Gerald had special insight sixty years ago when he was ripping off Hermetic rites and some gypsy superstition in hopes of conning girls out of their undergarments. If the divine is in everything, I can certainly access it through the internet and tickle people out of their schemas and mud holes.

I've lived in the same place, more or less, for my whole life. I've never called a place home that was more than forty-five miles from my parents' house. I've never traveled from North America, going as far north and east as Nova Scotia, south as Virginia, and west as California (but only on a one-hour layover to Las Vegas). I want to. I've always wanted to be the type who has backpacked around Europe, as clichéd as that is. I've just never had the opportunity. I think, unless something in my life quite radically changes, I will never backpack around anywhere much. If I travel Europe, it will either be at my lover's behest or on a book tour (on which more shortly).

I work as a proofreader on the editorial team of an educational publisher under the belief that, as there is no real opportunity to advance my paycheck (even if I dedicate seventy hours a week like some of my coworkers), it will turn out to be excellent resume fodder and will keep me from abject poverty while it does. Despite being fairly dull and dry work (I don't enjoy proofing standardized tests anymore than you like taking them), I excel at it. I am exactly the type to pause at signs and reach for my red pen so I can fix the grammar. I feel this is less to do with any literary skill and more than I have a word accountant living in my eyes. The downside is that I am the grammarian about whom your mother warned you and will have to consciously swallow my cringing around anyone who has atrocious grammar. In online conversations, I fall to near paroxysms and cannot visit chat rooms for fear of catching sudden onset epilepsy (or, perhaps, ellipsilepsy).

I have a college student girlfriend named Melanie who is absolutely the light of my life. Most of the time, she doesn't feel at all young to me. And when she does, I just laugh and suggest I am raising the perfect partner. I've never loved anyone as I love her, not only because she is singularly astounding (though, of course, she is), but because I believe I have been with no one who was quite as open to being loved by me. I worked with my ex Emily, to a degree, because I act like water, flowing into her rough spots to make something that seem to be a unified mass when it is actually two different states of matter commingling. At best, we were a mixture, particles of solid and water forming a kind of colloid when pressure was applied. At worst, I eroded her and she polluted me. Melanie isn't a solid, she is another liquid and we flow together in a similar direction. Though she may have to divert off to a valley or basin for a bit, her destination is the same as mine. Even when she is rivulets, her attention focused everywhere, she has never fully left me as I have never left her. Distance can never part us. There may be ice floes and heat troughs, but we will ever the other out.

I've loved few women in my life and fall to the predictable and dangerous habit of judging the past by the standards of the present. Still, I would place the number of women I have loved at four (which is a bit like stating that watermelons, grapes, apples, and raspberries are all fruits; yes, all the same thing but drastically different variations). This is also the number of sex partners I have ever had, a fact that is not coincidental. For someone who takes life so lightly, I take love and sex quite seriously (though I have endless amounts of fun being in love). I consider romantic love something I need in my life, though in a way I do not feel is codependent. Both my prior and present partner are given to long trips elsewhere, and I am just as functional if my partner is on the other side of the world, sitting in sunshine as I sleep. In the last eleven years, I have been single for less than nine months, during most of which I was hoping to be otherwise. I tend to be surprisingly picky, given this. Still, I don't consider it a character flaw, just another facet of the whole.

I'm a writer, as I think this all should make clear. I finished one book that is, as yet, unpublished (though I have nibbles from a small publisher who wishes to see it in February and I am in the process of getting a literary agent) and another one I am several hundred pages into. I have been published by Cave Drawing Ink in their book Rise of the Outlanders! and will again be published by them in May in their yet unnamed book that will easily be ten times better than Outlanders. Beyond that, I had a one act play I wrote produced by a director who mutilated the dialogue and offensively miscast, turning a drama into a comedy. I have not been terribly keen to write anything over which I don't have ultimate control since that embarrassment. I consider my novels being published (though not my becoming a resounding international success) as inevitable. I really cannot imagine that won't happen. Melanie, finally reading my first book, lavished me with honest praise such as "I could write a dissertation on this", so I feel my hope is well placed.

I am proud of my ability to sustain myself, even if I can't manage to keep savings in its proper account, even if I am actually poorer than when I almost literally slaved at a boarding school, even if I am only barely making this lifestyle work. My life could be easier. More than a few of my friends are able to live more extravagantly thanks to a financial coupling with their sexual partners (then again, many of these friends would be more than casually interested in exchanging my financial struggles for greater autonomy and freedom; how painful must it be to have to bite your tongue as your caustic roommate crawls on top of you, knowing that you could lose your home if you rightly showed him or her the door?). I am years from things being easy, even if I manage to sell my novel to a decent-sized publishing house. I know and envy some, who are in better circumstances through a lack of student loans, getting into the workforce sooner, and just plain luck. Envy is the nature of humanity, at least reminding us to keep progressing. More content people couple this with an awareness of how much we may also be envied and a suggestion that our grass is pretty green already. I spent a lot of my life passively annoyed that I did not have the opportunities some did - specifically not having the money to go to Vassar College - but I am coming into a place in my life where I am quite happy. I would not be here had a taken a different path and I have to begin to see these setbacks as blessings.

So, enough about me. Who are you?

Soon in Xenology: Drive. Abandonment. Seeing Emily.

last watched: United States of Tara
reading: Confirmation
listening: Regina Spektor

" New Years Odd | 2009 | Possible Futures "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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