Skip to content →

Tag: @jjgallaher1


The early bird might get the worm, but the early person

mostly just has to sit around and wait for everyone else to show up.

So much for pithy ideas about personal betterment. People

have always been like this, I’m certain, waking up one day

feeling a little different (6% Neanderthal, maybe), and then wondering

if this means it’s the end of something or the beginning of something.

I’m better now, this morning, not realizing I’d been worse,

a light cold. So maybe this is the worse to some future better? The idea

of becoming enters, and so then we’re all becoming.

In the movie The In-Laws, there’s this scene where the fathers of the bride

and groom are running through gunfire at an airport, and the

secret-agent dad calls out to the common-man dad, “Serpentine!

Serpentine!” while zigzagging. For some reason that’s stuck with me more

than most anything else from my youth. It felt like good advice,

as the unknown is merciless, and so of course, the common-man dad

runs back to his starting place and begins again, running through the bullets

a second time, getting it right. Repetition is how we learn things,

as Natalie and Eliot both are asking me for the same story over and over,

until it starts to feel to me as if there’s no other story than this one.

When did I become what I’ve become, then, as it always seems

nothing’s changing? “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy

making other plans,” as John Lennon had it, and I stood

in front of the Dakota in the cold, on the anniversary of his murder.

I thought I was paying attention. Maybe I should have paid something else

then. Some more subtle division, as three years after writing this

I’m looking back at it: it’s 2012 now, we’ve moved across town, after

our neighbor, Matt, tried to corner Robin in our basement while I

was out of town. There’s a question in that, and the answer comes

when you stop asking the question. We sit around, and windows

are what we talk about, because we’re surrounded by windows. Life’s

a game of Hide & Seek, they say, and maybe you’ll be a really good hider.

from In A LandscapeFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2014
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.


“Are you happy?” That’s a good place to start, or maybe,

“Do you think you’re happy?” with its more negative

tone. Sometimes you’re walking, sometimes falling. That’s part

of the problem too, but not all of the problem. Flowers out the window

or on the windowsill, and so someone brought flowers.

We spend a long time interested in which way the car would

best go in the driveway. Is that the beginning of an answer?

Some way to say who we are?

Well, it brings us up to now, at any rate, as the limitations

of structure, which is the way we need for it to be. Invent some muses

and invoke them, or save them for the yard, some animus

to get us going. And what was it Michael said yesterday? That

the committee to do all these good things has an agenda to do all these

other things as well, that we decide are less good in our estimation,

so then we have this difficulty. It just gets to you sometimes. We have

a table of red apples and a table of green apples, and someone asks you

about apples, but that’s too general, you think, as you’ve made

several distinctions to get to this place of two tables, two colors.

How can that be an answer to anything? Or we can play the forgetting game,

how, for twenty years, my mother would answer for her forgetfulness

by saying it was Old-Timer’s Disease, until she forgot that too.

On the television, a truck passes left to right, in stereo. Outside,

a garbage truck passes right to left. They intersect. And so the world continues

around two corners. The table gets turned over, with several people

standing around seemingly not sure of what comes next. Look at them

politely as you can, they’re beginners too. And they say the right question

is far more difficult to get to than the right answer. It sounds good,

anyway, in the way other people’s lives are a form of distance, something

you can look at, like landscape, until your own starts to look that way

as well. Looking back at the alternatives, we never had children

or we had more children. And what were their names? As the living room parts

into halls and ridges, where we spend the afternoon imagining a plant,

a filing cabinet or two . . . because some of these questions

you have with others, and some you have only with yourself.

from In A LandscapeFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2014
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.


The college mascot is visiting the elementary school. It’s

celebrity reading day, and it strikes me as suddenly funny,

as mascots are mute creatures best experienced

from a distance. Last week the university president

was the celebrity reader. He read a book called T

Is for Turkey. I asked Robin if it was an autobiography.

I love it when life gives us these little punch lines. Like the way

“that’s what she said,” keeps making the rounds, which was once,

apparently “Said the actress to the bishop,” which comes from

Britain, and might date from Elizabethan times, or, the much better,

to some at least, when someone says something with an “-er” ending

to you, you can reply, “but you brought her.” Soccer? You

brought her. Sucker? You get the drift. Hold a screw in your palm,

and ask someone if they wanna screw. If someone is wearing something

with a heart on it, you can say, “I see you’ve got a heart on.”

(That one doesn’t work well on paper.)

One of the ones I’ve known for a long time, I picked up

from a guy in high school, Vick Vanucci: pick up a leaf

and then hand it to someone, saying, “leaf me alone.” A couple months

after I heard him say that, I got to use a similar one on him. He was flipping

my social studies book closed while I was trying to read (it was

reading aloud day in social studies class), and writing “YOU ARE A

DI_K” on the inside heal of my sneakers that were under my desk

for gym class next period. I’d had enough. So I waited my chance

and then hit him as hard as I could across the back of his trumpet playing hand

with my gym lock. It was a dial combination lock

with a big circular knob on the front. There was already swelling

by the end of class. So then, next period, there we were

in the gym. He does the whole arm-up-behind-my-back-smashing-my-faceinto-

the-lockers thing. Ah, high school. He said, “Tell everybody

you’re a dick!” And I replied, “OK, you’re a dick.”

I sometimes think it was the greatest moment of my life.

from In A LandscapeFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2014
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.