Ken Robidoux

Suddenly: My least favorite word

I’m starting this post the day after I found out some sad news. John Vega–Juan to some–my Johnny is dead.

When I was younger, I went through some really hard times. A man who I still love and respect made me promise that I wouldn’t kill myself. I don’t make promises lightly. Scott Greene wouldn’t let me off the phone until I promised. And so far, I haven’t.

Some of the words in that conversation involved his not respecting that choice and how horrid it would be since I’d be leaving a child behind, and that when I was older I’d see what a stupid mistake it was since things do get better, and since he was recently off his psych rotation which involved him saving someone’s life, I decided to believe him.That’s what I remember.

Things did get better, and I’m grateful. 

This is so hard to talk about. I fear Bible Thumpers–many of whom are my relatives and from reading their Facebook updates and likes, are very judgmental–will start throwing stones at me for broaching this subject. I want to throw stones, too–and rocks and ashtrays. This hurts.

Wednesday started with my thinking there were an awful lot of cell phones going off on the NPR shows I was listening to. I’m not a cell phone person. I have a contract with the terrorist network so I buy my minutes at the grocery store and complain about my land line. Living in a valley is not easy, nor pretty. There is no cable and we can’t get a dish to lock on to a satellite, thus many of my texts end up stuck in some sort of a time gnome that spits them out to their intended recipient days, or even weeks, later. 

The chirping I heard was my phone alerting me to a message. Jim had texted me before eight a.m. wanting to know if I was free in the afternoon. I replied that I could be, but I didn’t have a vehicle and I asked what was up. There was no reply. I went on with my day, did Pilates, took a shower, and drank my coffee. Knowing my phone’s idiosyncrasies, I sent an email to him, basically saying the same thing. Within minutes, he replied that he was on his way over. I had hopes that Johnny was over there visiting and had time for a chat. I put on makeup.

What was it? A year ago? Two? Jim and Julie had a drum circle led by Steve Bell at their home. Christ! The night before that I’d been up late drinking with my brother-in-law and I was wobbly hung over, but since I’d already Facebook accepted the invite to the drum circle, I was going to be there, so I was. Aren’t Facebook acceptances to events just like promises? 

Oh, how drumming and throbbing heads do not go together! I did think about making an appearance and disappearing…then Jim took a phone call and I overheard that John was on his way over.

I can think what I want, can’t I? I ended up in a grouping with him and Betty and Jim and oh, I forget who came and went, but I drank a lot of water. The way John would pull out his phone–the way he held it–it looked awkward and wrong. Maybe there was an injury I don’t know about, but regardless of where I was sitting, the phone was pointed at me when he answered it–though I don’t recall hearing it ring or vibrate. In my head, I came to believe he was taking pictures of me. I’m allowed these thoughts, aren’t I? Until I’m proven wrong, at least. NSA? Want to weigh in on this? Slice my experience of electronic reality with a fishing line and divide it as sharply as a piece of cake… 

I ended up staying very late at that party, as did John and Betty.

Let it be known that I think Betty is an awesome, talented, smart woman. I really do, but once it came out in conversation that John was an old boyfriend of mine, it seemed to me that she meant to keep us apart. I could be completely wrong; these are just my reflections and memories–fallible at best. If she reads this, I hope she realizes that too. 

Around the table on the deck, oil lamps were lit and wine was drunk. I had one glass of red. Sans Betty, I think–wishfully–that Jim and Julie would have faded into their yurt and John and I could have patched the tell-tale threads that we needed to have snipped, fixed, fixed up, to fix us and make us more complete. Again, I can’t say this is true at all. Maybe John wouldn’t have stayed so long if Betty wasn’t there as a buffer. I don’t know. It just felt like there was more to say.

Nothing happened except John left, then Betty, then me. 

Arriving home, I found out that my brother-in-law’s flight had been canceled. He couldn’t reach Husband on either the land line or his cell phone. He’d called my cell, but as I’d left my phone in the truck, I’d never gotten his three voice mails. My step-son had picked him up and brought him back to our house. I–high on the experience I’d just had–talked to him and he agreed that yeah, the way John held his phone; he probably did snap a picture of me.

Flattery on top of flattery.  

Within the next few days, I told Husband what happened. I told him I wanted to talk to John again. When I said to Jim that I wanted to talk to John, he hesitated, but it came to be a possibility. John was willing to meet me at Jim and Julie’s house–safe, mutual ground–to chat.

For the longest time, the meeting hung in the air as vague and wispy as spider silk. I nudged a few times. A few weeks ago, at the end of August, Husband and I were driving down Sharp Street when a turkey flew out in front of us. It was scary. I reminded Jim again that night that I might not live forever and I really wanted to talk to John before I was gone.

You’ll think I’m making this up, but it’s true. I’d bought a ticket to Mary Aker’s book launch party the minute I found out about it. Johnny committed suicide on Friday, 20 September 2013. Saturday, I half-assed ironed my shirt and went to the library. After, I came home. I decided to iron my shirt properly. I saw something big in the bathroom window. The biggest turkey with the reddest and bluest wattle I’ve ever seen was circling the windows of the lower greenhouse.  Husband came down and looked at the turkey. The huge bird stuck around long enough for me to slip out of the front door and retrieve the camera that was in the truck. We got two pictures, then he wandered off, like his message had been received. I saw him cross the street.

At Mary’s book launch party, I met up with Jeff Schober. I’d been to his book reading at the West Falls-Colden Library a year and a half ago. After that awesome experience, I found out I could volunteer as a librarian on Saturdays. He and I talked about that, and his new book. The sky was clear when I left the book launch, it grew darker as I drove home. The rain was harsh and I was on unfamiliar roads.

As I’m writing this, the Season Premiere of “Parenthood” is on. It’s not lost on me that Christina’s friend Gwen just consoled her with these words when Christina was hesitating about running a campaign, “If you want to do something, you just do it. You don’t wait.”

I wish now that I had insisted and met up with John but I didn’t. Onward… 

When I found out John killed himself, I announced on Twitter that I knew I wasn’t the only person who had two old flames commit suicide, but it felt that way. “Da Missus”–and by extension, Lx– let me know that they were there for me. I talked to my sister. I talked to my best friend. I talked to my cousin. I’m grateful to them all for their love and support. Thank you Tracy, Sheila, Teresa, Alex, and Yvonne.

The next day, today I found out John used a gun and that there was a note. I don’t know the caliber. I don’t know what his last words were. I don’t think I’ll be privy to that, either. What I did find was an awesome complimentary note from Ken Robidoux on Facebook. He wrote about meeting me at AWP in such sweet terms. Mia, Meg, Greg, and Yvonne congratulated me on the story. I don’t know if any of them know how awesome it was to find that on my Facebook page on Thursday.

Even though John wasn’t actively in my life, I hate that he’s gone. Other people in my life have died, but until him, I didn’t get the outrage and pain that suicide brings to the living. I hate myself for feeling I could have easily have been that selfish when I was younger. I hate that he chose that end. I’m pissed at him, and I feel sorry for him and his children and even his future grandchildren who won’t know what a funny, great guy he was. I don’t know why I miss him more now than if I’d heard that he had a heart attack or got hit by a bus, perhaps it’s survivor’s guilt–that I should have been able to do or say something–anything to avoid that end.  With Mark, I heard he did that and I thought “good choice.” I’d worked past his abuse, I didn’t care anymore. I don’t know, we all make choices…If I hadn’t met Mark, things with Johnny might have gone a different way. But they didn’t and magical thinking isn’t something I want to do. I just want to thank people and be grateful.

Writing, crafting, editing, rewriting, it’s so lonely, BUT it’s not like when I started sending things out in the nineties. I feel so much more connected to the community of artists and my friends because of the internet. In the nineties, I wanted to write a column for a tiny newsletter a used record shop put out. They didn’t go for my pitch, but unless I asked for the opportunity, I never would have thought about writing columns, or trying to connect with readers on a regular basis, and so I thank Burnett for saying no. Had he said yes, I might have burned out with columns. Instead. I’m years into this blog and grateful to every single view, comment and follower. Thank you all. In case I die, I want you to know you’re held in high esteem in my eyes and I appreciate the hell out of you, even if we don’t agreed on politics, religion, or some other silly thing that we won’t even remember should one of us not be around tomorrow.


The Obituary



*These are just my creekside reflections. Your experiences may vary.


Boston, baby!

There is much to tell and upload and link. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen until I return home. In the meantime, I’ve met Alex Pruteanu, Meg Tuite, Pat Pujolas, Ken Robidoux and many more. Rachael and I blinded (temporarily) Helen Victoria and we’ve listened to some great writers in the past two days. Once I’m dressed, I’m off to Dillon’s for the AWP Heat.

Seriously, I wish you were here!


Did you come back to see if I updated this post? Good for you!

I arrived in Boston on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Rachael and I attended the Birds of a Feather AWP offsite reading at The Elephant & Castle Pub. We blinded Helen Victoria in our attempt to get a picture with her:


Thursday, we ended up at The Greatest Bar in Boston where we heard some great readers.


I met ALEX!!!


He was fantastic as a human being and friend. BUY his books!! He signed Gears for me, and had I know he was carrying around Short Lean Cuts, I would have gotten that, too. I have the kindle version, but it’s not the same as a real book. He introduced me to Pat Pujolas, author of Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World. After, at a hotel bar, Rachael and I sat with with some great people including, Ken Robidoux, Robert Vaughan and Meg Tuite.

Friday, I ventured out by myself and went to AWP Heat: The Fire Inside  at Dillon’s. I picked up my fabulous shirts from Meg. I heard more writers reading fabulous work, including Len Kuntz, Sara Lippmann, Ben Tanzer, Timothy Gager and Bonnie ZoBell. (If I missed you, let me know and I’ll add you!) It was overwhelmingly great.

Saturday, the book fair was open to all and I stopped and talked to many great people, especially everyone at Press 53. Added bonus: I met Roxane Gay and she knew who I was!!!

Monday was topped off with a poetry reading. Patty Paine did a fantastic job.

(More later–I hope–my mifi is dying)