Hangin' Tough

Not the Very Best of keepgoing.org

Seeing that this issue marks our fifth anniversary and that two of our editors will be giving birth any day now, we decided to feature some pieces from our past issues. Most sites like this do not last five years and we’d like to think that makes us kinda special. Maybe it’s because we all really feel the need to express ourselves. Maybe it’s because we all really believe in this endeavor more than those other guys did. Maybe it’s because we all really like to see in our names in print. I don’t know. What I do know is that this site has kept going because of the time, effort, and ideas we have all put into it. Sure, some of our early issues might not have looked very professional and they might not have contained the best content, but we love them like a mother loves her ugly baby.

The pieces featured below do not make up a “best of” list. We’ve never really made such distinctions in the past so why start now. Look at them as a collage of clippings from our Fall 2000 to Summer 2004 issues. If you take some time to go back and explore those earlier issues you’ll learn more about who we are and why we keepgoing.

This is our message in a bottle. This is our wave to a stranger. This is our farm.

— Geary Yonker, Publisher

It’s an unusual day when I get a 10-page letter from a convict in a state penitentiary asking for aid in “saving the world”. I’ve received many similar letters from people who believe they have discovered a new truth about dinosaurs. And when I read that letter many years ago, it seemed somewhat amusing at first. But it quickly turned rather disturbing, if not chilling, by the end. Sadly, it was plainly obvious that when Mr. Eugene D. Moore wrote the letter, he was an unrepentant killer who blamed everyone but himself for his crime. I hope since then he has changed. A person close to the family emailed keepgoing and suggested that publishing the letter was somehow cruel and indifferent to their pain. You should certainly draw your own conclusions. However, in my opinion this letter, as deranged and hard to take seriously as it is from a casual glance, is no different than any of the various collect calls, letters, pleas, threats and other scams that convicts regularly send out to the general public. So while I can sympathize with the family’s distress over the incident, in my opinion they should find a more appropriate channel for it, namely, the unrepentant Mr. Moore himself. 

“Discovering Lust” was something I’d been writing in my head for years before I actually committed it to paper, and I was pretty pleased with how it turned out (and pleased with myself for being the author of such a clever little number). That pleasure quickly turned to a whirlwind of other emotions when the piece was published. When I arrived home from work one day my husband informed me that the subject of the piece was threatening to sue us for slander, or something like that.

First I thought he was pulling my leg. When I realized he was serious, I was in shock: frankly (and, obviously, naively), it had never occurred to me that the subjects of the piece would ever read it. Who reads this silly little website, after all? Just our friends, right? Wrong. The power of those who Google themselves on a regular basis had reared its ugly head, and the way we here at keepgoing write about these people from our murky pasts would forever be changed.

Our publisher asked me if I was sure about all the facts of the piece, obviously wanting to know if he had anything to really worry about. Suddenly, I had doubts where none had existed before. Was Omar really Middle Eastern? Nope, turns out I was wrong about that. Was his brother’s girlfriend really a band slut? I thought so, but jeez, this was more than 10 years ago. Even if that was something “everyone” in my high school knew, it still didn’t make it true. I had been sure about it all when I wrote it, but suddenly, now that others who had been there were complaining, my initial self-righteousness was getting a little fuzzy around the edges. While my friends here at the website advocated all-out warfare on any who dared to oppose us, I was wondering if perhaps the aggrieved parties, while still pretty ridiculous for getting so worked up about it, had a leg to stand on. I hadn’t meant to hurt anyone, and now I truly feared that I had.

Long story short, we took out the last name and other identifying facts about the subjects of the piece, and the whole thing blew over. I realized that I had to be a bit more careful about what I thought I remembered. And we all learned a valuable lesson: you never know who’s going to read this site. But despite all the brouhaha, I think this piece stands up pretty well on its own merits, and I hope people get something out of it besides the knowledge that it’s the first and only keepgoing piece to ever involve us in legal issues.

Several years have passed since the events described in this story took place, but one thing remains constant. George W. Bush is still a raging hop-head.

Where are they now, you might ask? The $56 shorts are resting comfortably in a drawer. They have covered my naughty bits and held back the rising tide of my gut with their double reinforced waistband in many foreign lands. Who could have imagined that these shorts, purchased under duress for an exorbitant price, would come in so handy in the long run?

I felt the need to pull this fine pair of shorts from the drawer as I wrote this. They were improperly folded amongst a nest of lesser shorts from lesser third-world sweatshops. Perhaps I should bronze them. Perhaps I should burn them like a flag that has touched the ground. Perhaps, just maybe, I should wear them? Alas, time has passed, and the formerly svelte me has become slightly more tubby, and they don’t fit as well as they did on that sacred day when they came into my life. I can squeeze myself into them still, but the pleats, the ever-so-stylish pleats, blow out in a sad, silent testament to my corpulence. They are destined for dark drawers and loneliness, unless some skinny person will give them a home.

I’m happy to report that my love for Carter is still as alive and fresh and vibrant and strong as it was when I wrote this installment of my Male Bag column. This October we’ll be celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary and the birth of our baby girl. (Incidentally, the nursery is painted green, and Carter is pleading no pink stuff!)

I’m also happy to report that we still have the rubber tree. It’s in the living room of the house we live in now, under three bay windows that face the front porch, just like in Carter’s old bedroom. It’s still about eight feet tall but only because I recently pruned it; once again it was hitting the ceiling, even though the ceiling’s about four feet higher than the one in the house we used to live in. Our spider plants are still plentiful, a little too plentiful for Carter’s taste. And we still have our little black cat Bela, who (unlike her brother Oye) has finally learned to leave all the plants alone.

However, I’m sad to report that my love for trees has turned a bit sour.

Don’t get me wrong, trees are great. I mean, how could I think anything bad about trees? But I’ve become sick of thinking anything at all about trees due to Carter’s all-consuming obsession with them. At times, just to preserve my sanity, I have had to impose moratoriums on hearing about, talking about, or looking at trees. I did give in on Carter’s birthday last year when I took him to the arboretum, which was the equivalent of taking a regular guy to a strip club – yes, he was really that excited.

And to Carter’s credit, his obsession with trees has paid off in many ways. The trees he has planted in our yard are beautiful, and the trees he has pestered the city to plant on our block and the surrounding blocks have really improved the neighborhood. So what’s my problem? Could it be that I’m jealous of Carter’s love for trees? How silly would that be, admitting that something so innocuous has caused the green-eyed monster to consume me?

Even so, I’ll tell you… this baby girl is not going to be named Willow.

In Spring 2002 we decided to change the name of the site from The Farm to keepgoing.org. This made a whole helluva a lot of sense seeing that our URL was and still is keepgoing.org. The Farm was what we had been calling our group of friends since we all met at an actual farm back in 1997. Eight years later The Farm is still going strong and we still meet up at that little farm in Wisconsin every year. We may not live down the block from one another anymore or drink quite as much, but our ties are still strong. We’ve even started growing new additions to the group and are expecting a few more any day now. The change in our name represented a change in our focus. No longer would we be writing for one another but writing with a larger audience in mind. This means you.

The following is a good example of one of my old intros. The intros used to be the first thing listed on our table of contents. Id like to think that some of them were pretty entertaining or inspirational. I know that some were just the late-night ramblings of a guy with a lot on his mind. After that mind became more obsessed with politics and less with The Farm, we decided to morph the intro into “From The Publisher”. This made my populist/liberal claptrap much easier to avoid if you weren’t in the mood for such things.

What the hell am I supposed to say about a zero-sum prank? Honestly, I never thought this would come up and I kind of thought it was funny to just leave it and never say anything about it again. I got such a kick out of writing that letter, taking hints from friends and deciding whom to send it to, that I never really considered that I wouldn’t get one response. Not. One.

Well really, the only response I got was from the Warner/Elektra offices in New York. It was a Return to Sender that had been almost opened and then folded, spindled, mutilated, and rebounded. I was desperately hoping to receive a response from Stewart Copeland because I am a secret fan, but he obviously never got the chance to see just how amusing I can be. Those bastards.

To be fair, the letters were sent not that long after the anthrax letters went around and New York had probably figured it had been fucked with enough in recent months.

So if you have never had the pleasure, as so many have, of seeing me make a fool of myself, here is your second-hand opportunity. Thanks so much to all of you who enjoyed it enough the first time around!

I used to keep a list, like a recipe, of all the ingredients I felt were needed to cook up the Great American Novel. All of the communal fundamental American experiences that belong to all of us, even if they never specifically happened to us. The car crash, the run-in with Johnny Law, et cetera. When I was running low on ideas, I would pick one from the list and write a story. Skinny dipping was always near the top of the list.

Everyone needs to go skinny dipping.

It helps if you’re a teenager full of hormones, or perhaps in an especially adventuresome period in college, but if you have no such convenient excuse, then you for sure have to go. It makes it extra naughty.

I think it’s important for me to preface these remarks by pointing out that “47” is the number Rod Beck wore on his jersey in 1998. It is not indicative of the number of poems I have written about Rod Beck. That number would be “3” or maybe “3.5.”

This is a funny poem about a sad time. During the summer of 1998, I was living in Iowa City, passing time by reading lots of true-crime books and working at a rare-book dealer’s shop housed in one wing of the book dealer’s beautiful old Victorian house. Shoppers rarely came in on the weekends; the air conditioning was argumentative and unreliable and usually by noon I would find myself lounging in the dark, on the relatively cool floor. I learned to construct Mylar book covers (jacketless, even the most valuable first edition might as well be dripping with cat piss) with my eyes closed, listening to the radio broadcasts of late afternoon Cubs games, pretending I was toiling away at my Victorian needlepoint instead of protecting a set of first edition Grishams.

The first time I actually saw (rather than heard) Rod Beck come trotting out to the mound, I thought of Persian cats wearing eyeliner. I thought of totem poles and shoebox-shaped wrestlers. On the radio, no one mentioned his glorious moustache or gentle swinging pre-pitch swing, arm looser than the abandoned side of a see-saw. I watched him close game after game and I began to believe, albeit briefly, that anything was once again attainable. Although the Cubs did not make it past the playoffs that season, watching them got me through the summer and watching Rod Beck got me through the waiting for everything to be over.

Upon being asked to write an introductory paragraph to their now infamous “Mean, Hurtful Poems to People We Don’t Like,” Edgar and Rutger Bumfuzzled submitted the following:

Shove it.

— The Bumfuzzled Brothers

We hate those guys.

Jesus was the original action hero. He was the charismatic outsider who made the authority figures uncomfortable and made the evildoers crap their pants. Jesus was all about doing his job, and whenever the captain – uh, I mean the high priest – would try to rein him in, tell him to “do things by the book,” he’d just roll his shoulders Eastwood-style and take it to the streets where he’d dish out his own brand of justice. Because Jesus was never about following the rules – he was about saving people. And I was hip to that long before action-icon Mel Gibson put out The Passion of the Christ (which was really just the last third of Lethal Weapon 2 with more Romans and fewer South African drug dealers). So the Robocop/Jesus dichotomy was a natural. I’m just glad that Paul Verhoeven’s movie had enough substance to it that I could address, in some limited way, the problem of suffering in Christianity. Still doesn’t make up for Hollow Man, though. God, that movie sucked.

Well, it’s been a year and a half since I wrote this li’l ol’ screed, and I have to say that I’m still as puzzled by the whole “metrosexual” thing as I ever was, as well as how in the name of God’s gonads the term could possibly apply to a scruff like me. I do know that I still don’t use “hair product”, though I do admit to flossing occasionally. As for my alleged homophobia based on my lack of viewerly enthusiasm about “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”, well I haven’t started voting Republican yet, nor have I cracked any guys in the jaw with a bottle for “checking me out” in a bar… hell, I haven’t even stood outside any second-hand shops heckling “antiquers”. If I’d actually been a homophobe, Fag Bashers’ Local 501 would have revoked my card long ago on the basis of non-participation, wouldn’t you say? (Hell, I don’t even know if that “Queer Eye” program is still on the tube anymore… is it?)

I must say, though, that it’s been damned kind of the keepgoing crowd to have humored me by giving me a little corner of their site for my self-indulgent prattling for the past few years. And it’s even more flattering that they have chosen to bring one of my articles back for the anniversary issue. Even though what I do write is generally just for the general goofery of it all, I do honestly think that the Internet (for all its obvious flaws) is finally beginning to show real signs of reaching its potential as a new form of direct, immediate communication of ideas and information. In my opinion, that’s damned important in this day and age of virtual monopoly ownership of our print and broadcast media by a few conglomerates. Keepgoing is a growing part of a larger movement towards the grassroots proliferation of ideas via the online community, and though when you get right down to it I’m basically just some schmoe who wishes he were Dave Barry, I’m proud as hell to have been a small part of this site’s efforts.

Well met, me hearties! (And thanks.)

This is the first of a two-part series concerning the ways I’ve inadvertently impacted the sex lives of various animals. I almost had a third installment, when our new kitty developed an obsession for humping my toe, but he got “tutored” and now he’s really just more of a mama’s boy.Incidentally, I contacted my old high-school teacher, impetus of the whole story, and he wrote back! He said, and I quote, “Your courage to request an alternate to dissecting caused to me to view the concept of dissection differently and of course led to more students choosing alternatives each year.” He says he’s retired, but you can see he’s still a really great and motivating teacher at heart. It kind of made me wish I were one of those jerk kids who goes back to visit their old high-school teachers, disrupting the current class with their shaggy heads and devil-may-care college clothes and eau de no-longer-a-virgin and still looking like a simp. Long live Mr. Boswell!

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