Taking Matters Into My Own Hands: Interesting Pieces I’ve Read Lately

Various readers of Medium at various times have written compilations of pieces they’ve especially appreciated over the past week or so. Alto comes immediately to mind. In my early days on the site, he used to publish a wide-ranging weekly wrap-up of his favorite writings. I came to depend on it for my Sunday reading list.

Until it simply wasn’t there one wet Sunday at my favorite coffee shop. There I sat with my decaf café au lait, a fresh charge on the laptop, and nothing to read. Well, not nothing, but nothing that had been handed to me. The following Sunday was a repeat of the former. Unfocused as I suddenly was, I was nonetheless able to perceive a pattern.

I was going to have to do the work of ferreting out good reading myself.

Alto had pointed me towards several writers whose writings I began to follow. Constellation-like, they led to others. I came across pieces, or let’s say types of pieces, I did not like. I stayed away from them, and learned how to filter them from my feed so as to leave more space and time to consume as much as possible of those I could scarcely get enough of.

I wish I could say I am as organized as Alto, that my aggregation (can you sense how hard I’m working to avoid the L word?) represented a defined span of time. It probably represents more or less a couple of weeks’ worth of reading, give or take a day or two. As well, please understand that I by no means set myself next to Alto in terms of quality of recommendation. Having one’s writing mentioned by him is akin to a baptism of sorts. All I intend is to give you some pieces that have moved me, to suggest you take a look.

I worship the range with which Jules and alto are capable of writing. Two recent pieces by each of them left me a thudding headache from the sheer intensity of reading that their writing demanded. Then I went back and re-read and re-read each to attempt to figure out how the hell they did it. I imagine you can figure out to which I refer.

In Next time we meet, let’s keep our clothes on., Jules nakedly describes an encounter that practically had me rolling on the floor laughing. God, I love people who can laugh at themselves. I’m torn, though. I don’t know if I wish she lived next door to me, or am relieved she doesn’t. For if she did, I’m fairly certain we’d sit up all night out on one of our decks, drinking and telling stories while the dogs all cavort.

She countered that with a piece published in CROSSING GENRES that I still can’t get out of my mind: Porn King. A seven-year-old Jules saves her own life in a way that leaves no doubt that she’d been learning to do so for some time.

alto describes himself as a “former flight paramedic turned MFA grad.” The grad pulls the paramedic’s stories out of his pockets and turns them into something you can’t peel your eyes away from. The Life Flight Chronicles, or I don’t think that’s what he meant by party is the soberest imaginable recounting of one particularly horrific night. I came away unclear to the point of befuddlement as to which of his skills were the greatest, the medical, the compassion, or the telling of it all. On an entirely different note, he published a birthday tribute to his partner, David Montgomery, on his birthday: They Say Opposites Attract, which left me wishing I lived upstairs (which, evidently is available) from their loft in a renovated cork factory.

I have to include here, under the general heading of range, S Lynn Knight. She writes often and penetratingly of questions of identity, and also edits the excellent eclectic publication, @The Weekly Knob. Most recently, though, she wrote an hysterical piece in The Bigger Picture about The Very First Time I Heard My Mom Drop The F-Bomb. Curious, I’ve written to The Son and The Daughter asking them to tell me their memories of the same. I haven’t yet heard back. I suspect they may need some time to recall the very first time.

Brave. That’s the word that comes immediately to mind when I think of Heather Nann, another writer I discovered early on at Medium. Her most recent piece is particularly so. She’s been through a difficult time with her daughter. I love you. But I cannot talk to you. immediately put me in mind of a challenging transit with my son which I attempted to describe in Waiting for Dylan.

Say what you will about Top Pages on Medium, and many have said much, most of it unfavorable, every now and then I take a chance and dip a toe in to see what’s swimming around. If I hadn’t, I’d never have come across a few fascinating pieces, each very different from the other, and unlike anything else I’ve been reading.

Explorer Lost, which appeared in the publication Love Nature, tells the story of an adventurous young man who set out on an African exploration 13 years ago. Alone. And vanished. Until a Facebook friend request breathed hope into the fact that he may still be alive.

Hard to imagine that there could be a food desert in the San Francisco Bay Area, but there is and are. Crystal’s story, published in Josephine, tells the story of a group on the ground bringing not only good, fresh foods, but also a side of information and education. Crystal’s story linked to that of Hai and Joe. Persistence. Perseverance. Committment. Hai and Joe embody them all. Determined to find a way to be together, to be married, and to live in the U.S., they literally travelled the world assembling one piece after another of the beautiful puzzle that is life. The organization, Josephine, has given them a means of planting themselves within their community, of growing friendships and relationships, through food. Imagine that.

Actually, the story germinated an idea for me, too. There is presently no group such as Josephine in my city; however……….

Just this morning, as I scrolled through the current listings in Top Stories, I screeched to a halt at one whose title at first glance I thought was Kevin Durant’s Condom. Turns out it was his Conundrum. Should he leave OKC or not? Seriously? How disappointing. But then! scrolling on, the name Jon Favreau caught my eye. He’d posted Barack Obama’s Last Stand. Just a couple of nights ago, I’d re-watched Chef, starring Jon Favreau, a favorite movie when I crave easy entertainment. This could be interesting, I thought. When I clicked on the story, though, even I could tell from the teeny photo that this was not my Jon Favreau. Shit. No condoms and the wrong Favreau. I couldn’t win for losing.

Well, hell, as long as I was there I figured I could go ahead and read the article. It’s a comparison between the Democratic and Republican presidential contests, and the President’s roll therein.

As I began reading, I started to think how nice, as the new Favreau briefly lists qualities of Hillary Clinton. But I was entirely his when, in the second, he shifts focus to Donald Trump. Uncountable words have been written about him, but these have to be among the best. Ever.

On the other side, Republicans have chosen to go in a bit of a different direction. From a field of 17 governors, senators, business leaders, and brain surgeons, the party of Lincoln has chosen Donald of House Trump, Builder of Walls, Banner of Muslims, King of Debt, Father of Trolls, and Little-Fingered Tweeter of Sick Burns, Wack-Job Conspiracies, and White Resentment. In this campaign, Trump has been called “utterly amoral,” a “con artist,” a “fraud,” a “pathological liar,” a “serial philanderer,” a “narcissistic egomaniac,” a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” the “Kim Kardashian of politics,” “ISIL Man of the Year,” a “cancer on conservatism,” and an “orange-faced windbag” who shouldn’t have access to the nuclear codes. And those are just the views of his fellow Republicans.

Ultimately, the story is a beautifully reasoned analysis and account of the point in history at which we have arrived, stumbling, falling, getting back up and moving forward. Wonderful writing. So glad to have discovered a new Favreau.

The story appeared in the Medium publication The Ringer, which I’d never heard of. I’d also never heard of Love Nature, and look where that led me. The Ringer’s home page lists a category for NBA Finals. Now, I don’t care what Kevin Durant does with his conundrums (or condoms), but if the current roster of the Golden State Warriors stays together forever and ever, I will be very happy. That said, how could anyone with even a passing interest in the NBA resist a story entitled: Nut Punches and Shattered Dry-Erase Boards: The NBA Finals Cage Match Has Begun. If you didn’t see Game 1, surely you’ve read, or at least heard enough about it to know that the “cage match” reference is pretty accurate. This isn’t good sports writing (well, yes, it is); it’s good writing. Game 2 tonight.

Condoms, identity, presidential politics, the NBA — all because I took a chance on Top Stories.

Speaking of Top Stories, Lon Shapiro wrote An open letter to the open letters by self-help, life-hack and tech-bro haters, subtitled A PRIMER ON NARCISSISM, ANGER AND PROJECTION. Just read it. Trust me. And speaking of people who can laugh at themselves, there is no one more adept than Lon Shapiro.

Poetry intimidates me. I got into its seductive groove often while stydying it when in college. But I’ve largely fallen away from it since. And that was a long time ago. Write it? Please. I’d rather handle rattlesnakes.

Medium is more and more becoming a home for poets and poetry, and it’s been a pleasure to reconnect. The first poet I encountered here was Mike Essig, and the second Anna Present. She recently published a bright, shining poem called You Are Everything That Moves Me. It’s so nice to see Mike Essig receiving some much-deserved recognition from the publication Poetry After Dark with Beginning With Only a Sound and Net of Hearts.

Will I ever do this again? I have no idea. How alto did this every week is beyond me, but I have a bit of insight into why he doesn’t now. This was exhausting, largely because my formatting and navigating skills are roughly non-existent. We’ll see, though.

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