November 30, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

The asphalt was wet when I hit it, causing me to slide a few feet out into traffic. I shook my head to clear it and scrambled back to the crosswalk where I had, moments before, been crossing without incident. That's how it works sometimes, Mr. Bush: You're walking back to your car after stopping at the post office and then, suddenly, you're lying on the ground, knee throbbing, elbow aching, and you have no idea what went wrong. That's what happened to me today.

I should say outright that I'm fine so you won't worry--my knee is going to be sore for the next few days and my elbow is a little cut up, but I didn't hit my head and nothing's broken, so my long term prospects are good--but it was startling and strange and scary all the same. To be blinking in the rain, on the ground, not knowing quite how you ended up there is a disorienting feeling and not one I'd care to repeat soon.

I'd like there to be some kind of larger story I could tell you here. Some sort of "big think" moment that I could leave you with, where I turn being hit by a car into a metaphoric vision of your election or the Iraq war or some other moment that would leave you sitting in the Oval Office, looking at your e-mail and saying "Whoa, he's right." But you know what Mr. Bush? I don't have a bigger story to tell. All I have to leave you with is the knowledge that being hit by a car--being knocked to the ground by something much bigger, heavier, and more metallic than myself--has left me confused and scared and hurting. Sure, there are a lot of metaphors to pull from what happened, but sometimes being hit by a car is just being hit by a car.

To getting back up,



November 29, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Tiny flies have staked a claim over our kitchen tonight, so I'm going to be too busy killing them to write you a proper letter.

Catch up with you tomorrow,



November 28, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Today, sniffling back a held-at-bay cold and flexing my stiffening fingers to keep them warm, I rode my new bike around the neighborhood. And as the cold November wind made tears roll down my cheeks, I realized that, no matter how old you get, the first time you put your foot on the pedal of a new bicycle the same feeling rushes through your body that surged through it the very first time you ever rode a bike. Once those wheels start turning, you get that same uncontrollable urge to pedal faster and never stop--never look back, never turn around--that you had when you took that first wobbily ride down the sidewalk decades before. On a bicycle, Mr. Bush, freedom is always ahead of you, always around the next corner, and always under your feet.

To tiny freedoms,



November 27, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Today we attacked the basement like it was an enemy encampment. Years of accumulated stuff--junk, mostly, when looked at in the light of day instead of the dusk of memory--is now piled high in the dumpster out back, slowly decomposing in the day's non-stop rain.

It's amazing what you carry with you over the years, and even more amazing how things that seemed so important at one point in your life can be parted with so quickly years later. And going through it all piece by piece, it's staggering just how much space it can all take up--in your life and in your head. The amount of brain capacity spent carting around the knowlege of all these things--their weight, their size, their meaning--is matched only by the amount of storage capacity to hold it all.

But today, as Janice lays next to me sneezing a decade's worth of accumulated dust out of her nose and I stop and rub my hands, swollen from carting boxes here and there, we can both rest easily (truly a well-earned nap, wouldn't you say, Mr. Bush?) knowing that below us sits a room that's been emptied of the things of yesterday and is ready to be filled with the dreams of tomorrow.



PS. Happy belated birthday to the girls.


November 26, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Yesterday my uncle wouldn't stop talking about your election, and it was funny because it felt like he was talking about something that happened a hundred years ago. The way that he talked about it--ballot rigging, election fraud, vote counts--sounded like he was talking about an old time miracle cure--salves and ointments and elixirs--that never healed anything. And it made me realize, Mr. Bush, that I'm not interested in talking about the past; history means nothing anymore. I'm only interested in talking about the future.

To tomorrow,



November 25, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

One-hundred and nineteen US soldiers have died so far this month in Iraq. Sitting around your table today surrounded by your family and friends, did you think about the 119 Thanksgivings that were missing a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a son, or daughter? Did you think about the 119 Thanksgivings ruined by your war? Did you think about the families, huddled together, choking back tears, trying to feign enthusiasm for a day that leaves them with nothing to be thankful for?

Or did you just reach for another slice of turkey?

Happy Thanksgiving,


November 24, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

At Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, when you and Laura and the girls are sitting around the big table, and you go around and say what you're thankful for--you know, before you start passing the cornbread and cranberry sauce--will you say that you're thankful that four years ago the election didn't turn out like the one in the Ukraine is turning out now? Because you should be. You should be.

I know that before I dig in tomorrow, I'm going to give a little prayer that someone invents a time machine sometime soon so we can go back in time with videotapes of the massive protests and general strikes that are sweeping Kiev and show ourselves from four years ago how contesting an election is really done.

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,



November 23, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Long day today. I'll catch up with you tomorrow.



November 22, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

I think I've helped almost every one of my friends move. Ever since we started getting out of our parents' houses, I've been lugging friend's boxes up four floor walk-ups, carrying couches down rickety stairwells, and hauling TVs across town. My hands feel thick today from helping another friend move into her first place in Chicago. She'd travelled across the country back in September and has been staying in my extra room while she gets oriented to the city. It's been great having her at the house, but today we hauled her pie display case, her two 78 players (neither work), a bureau, some pictures, and a bunch of boxes (oddly, there was no bed) out of her storage space, up a flight of stairs, and into her new home.

Like I said, I've helped almost every one of my friends move into their homes, and every time I do it I'm glad I did. My back may hurt or my ankle may get twisted, but it's wonderful to see the look of endless possibility--of new directions and new lives--that fill people's faces when they step into their new place, and it's nice to know I could do something to help make it happen.

To new homes and new beginnings,



November 21, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

The sun cut through the thin, cool air as I reached back into the dirt, bare handed, and grabbed a handful of leaves and twigs; I could feel the warmth finally starting to reach my body, and it felt good to be out there in the dirt much too early on a Sunday morning working up a sweat even while my breath turned to steam as I exhaled. You guesed it, Mr. Bush: Yard work this morning with the neighbors, all of the people in my building, each one digging and raking and sweeping and sweating. This was one of the last weekends before the weather turns against us, and so it was decided that now was the time to give the yard a good clean-up before it went dormant for the winter.

We dug and laughed and told stories about our lives, and the only thing that could have made it more perfect would have been if somone had spontanously brought out a cooler of beer and we all sat around it, cracking cold ones and looking sunned and weary and thankful that the beer was chillier than the air around us.

It was a morning fit for a beer commercial, Mr. Bush, with neighbors throwing in together to make something happen--something simple, yes, but something kind of wonderful anyway.

Living in a city you're surrounded by so many people that you forget just what it means to have neighbors, to have people involved in your life for no other reason than that they live in your building or next door or down the street. There's a power in getting to know these people, in being involved--in small ways, never big--with their lives; in helping them out when they need something done, or them helping you when you need the door opened or air in your bike tire. Turn on the evening news and you're constantly told how disconnected modern life is making everyone; how distant everyone's growing from each other. But today, kneeling in the dirt, smelling the chill in the air and smiling as we worked, we were close, closer than we even knew.




November 20, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Today sucked.

Here's to tomorrow,


November 19, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

I've spent hours now staring at your name on my screen; the words "Dear Mr. Bush" blinking back at me, taunting me to write further. Some days it's easy to write you--it feels like there's volumes to say--others its hard. Today's one of those hard days. Mostly because, honestly, nothing happened.

I spent the day at home today editing a manuscript and fielding some phone calls about a different book; I stepped out only to walk the dog and grab a bite to eat later in the evening. Most of my waking moments were spent on the very couch I'm writing you from now. The view hasn't changed at all. So no news from today, Mr. Bush, let's go back to yesterday instead, as my letter to you was rather opaque.

Yesterday I almost punched a guy. I was on a panel discussion at the college I teach at--the panel was "how to get published" --and there was an older gentleman from a literary journal sitting next to me. When I urged the audience to create their own destiny, to get their stories out there by any means necessary, he urged "patience." When I offered that the power to publish was within each audiencemember's grasp--that they could create their own publications, could put things on the Internet, could stage their own guerilla readings--he spoke of "real publishers" and "the right" way of reaching them. When a fellow panelist talked about the sometimes-elastic nature of truth in storytelling, he dressed her down as "irresponsible."

And that was when I almost punched him, Mr. Bush. Right then, I'd had enough.

None of what we were saying was irresponsible. Not one word. Instead it was his message--wait, wait until your time finally comes to you, and only then, only once you've been deemed "ready" will your voice truly matter--that was irresponsible. It was irresponsible because now is not the time to discourage people to find their voice. Now is not the time to stop people from telling their stories. Now is not the time to erect barriers and build roadblocks to communication, to understanding, to creating, to connecting.

It's well over 24 hours later, Mr. Bush, and my blood still runs warm when I think about him, sitting there smug in his turtleneck tucked under his suit jacket, telling people to wait. Most people spend their entire lives waiting for permission to live them, Mr. Bush. Now is not the time for waiting.

To living,



November 18, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

It rained today and it was warm, warmer than it's been in a while. Warm enough that I was able to go out in just a light jacket and a T-shirt, instead of bundled in a heavy jacket and hat. And it was that warmth--that soggy, wet heat that envelops you like a steamed towel--that seemed to announce, even as you stepped through the door, that today was gonna be trouble.

And it was trouble, but trouble of the best kind. The kind that you know--you just know--will follow you and haunt you and you will never want it to go away, because sometimes there's no better place to be than in trouble.




November 17, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Janice and I play this game sometimes when we're walking the dog. We walk by a house with a particularly creepy figurine in the window--a ceramic baby with a ball, or a hobo boy with a little glass knapsack, perhaps--and one of us will say, "What were they thinking?" And the other will respond, "Seriously--don't they know those things come alive at night?"

And then we laugh, the two of us, imagining for even just a few seconds that the world is alive with magic, both good and evil.

Take care,



November 16, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

I thought today you should read someone else's words--after all, you've read so many of mine. This is from the weblog of Riverbend, a young woman living in Baghdad and writing about her life in the Iraq you "liberated." Today she wrote about the shooting of an unarmed, wounded insurgent in Falluja. Her words are more powerful and more desperate than anything I will ever write you over the next four years.

"They killed a wounded man. It's hard to believe. They killed a man who was completely helpless- like he was some sort of diseased animal. I had read the articles and heard the stories of this happening before- wounded civilians being thrown on the side of the road or shot in cold blood- but to see it happening on television is something else- it makes me crazy with anger.

"And what will happen now? A criminal investigation against a single Marine who did the shooting? Just like what happened with the Abu Ghraib atrocities? A couple of people will be blamed and the whole thing will be buried under the rubble of idiotic military psychologists, defense analysts, Pentagon officials and spokespeople and it will be forgotten. In the end, all anyone will remember is that a single Marine shot and killed a single Iraqi 'insurgent' and it won't matter anymore.

"It's typical American technique- every single atrocity is lost and covered up by blaming a specific person and getting it over with. What people don't understand is that the whole military is infested with these psychopaths. In this last year we've seen murderers, torturers and xenophobes running around in tanks and guns. I don't care what does it: I don't care if it's the tension, the fear, the 'enemy'… it's murder. We are occupied by murderers. We're under the same pressure, as Iraqis, except that we weren't trained for this situation, and yet we're all expected to be benevolent and understanding and, above all, grateful. I'm feeling sick, depressed and frightened. I don't know what to say anymore… "




November 15, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

A man set himself on fire outside your house today. Were you even told? Did you care? When he lit himself aflame, what were you doing? Was it something important? For his sake, I hope so.

Are there nights where the aching reality of everything that's come to pass because of your actions hits you all at once? Nights where you cry out for Laura to wake up, hoping that she'll hold you until the dull pain in your heart subsides? Nights where shadows of those that are no longer here stalk you as you huddle under your sheets? Will tonight, with the acrid scent of charred flesh still lingering outside your window the way it hovers outside the windows of millions in Iraq, be one of those nights?

Don't let the bed bugs bite,



November 14, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Thirty years ago today, I almost died. My mom had been staying in the hospital for months, confined to her bed due to high blood pressure. It had been a long pregnancy by any standard, and on the morning of November 14, 1974 they decided to induce her--two weeks away from my due date, but far enough along that everything should have been fine. It wasn't.

The drug they use to induce labor, Pitocin, is supposed to be administered slowly and carefully so that contractions build organically. In my mom's case, the IV drip started full blast, and it resulted in an almost instantaneous 10-minute contraction that, once complete, meant that her uterine muscles were totally shot, and I had been pushed further up in her uterus instead of down. Even though my mother was now exhausted and in considerable pain, the doctors still expected her to deliver me naturally.

That expectation proved false when, hours later, my heartbeat suddenly became erratic. It would beat quickly, then stop entirely, and then restart again. It was a rhythm more conducive to freestyle jazz than sustaining a fragile, tiny life. Worried they were going to lose me, the doctors performed a crash C-section to yank me out of there.

And so, three decades ago, I emerged: bloody and crying and glad to be alive.

Happy Birthday to me,


PS. Sorry about the letter last night. It was dictated while lying face down on my bed, one foot reaching down to the floor to stop the room from spinning.

November 13, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

I think that I may have more friends than you do. So, I'm sorry about that, because that might explain a lot. Also, I've drunk a lot and my friends are still here.

Here's to friends,



November 12, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Today was spent in line. The county assessor's office, the department of motor vehicles, the bank, the bus--everywhere I turned, I was standing behind someone else, waiting, watching, waiting some more.

Sure, it was tedious--it was hot and sweaty and I got a little grumpy near the end--but actually, Mr. Bush, it wasn't that bad. I ran into someone I've been trying to track down for months now at the county building; I got to laugh along with the big black dude who told the skinny white kid that he'd "kick him" if he swiped a seat from my pregnant partner; I finally got to get a new photo on my driver's license (the brief flirtation with a mountain-man beard that has plagued ID checks for the last four years is finally a thing of the past); and I got to feel like I was part of something--part of a city, of a county, of a state, of a community--that was larger than I could ever be.

You talk of shrinking government, and I worry that what you're really talking about is shrinking the feeling that we're all in this together, that we each play a part in one another's fate. I worry that you're talking about removing the community that comes from sharing a joke with the guy holding line ticket number 69, or helping a stranger decide whether her ID photo would look better with glasses or without, or simply sitting among people you would never normally be around, waiting, watching, and waiting some more.

To living large,



November 11, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Tonight I came home a conquering hero, and I will sleep the sleep of the just.

Sleep tight,


November 10, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Today has been an awful day. One of those days where every insecurity eats away at you, every annoyance moves front and center, and every frustration manifests itself tenfold. I tend to think of myself as a troubleshooter, but right now there's just trouble--no shooting to be had.

I've had enough of the bad times today, so instead I thought I'd tell you about a time when nothing seemed to be going right, yet ended up being one of those defining moments that you don't realize is happening until you look back on it yeas later and say, yes, right then was when everything began to fall into place:

It was a few years ago and Janice and I and our dog Lucy went on a massive, cross-country road trip. We went down from Chicago to Memphis, cut across Arkansas into Texas, drove clear across that state, and wound up in New Mexico. We camped most of the way there, finding state park campgrounds in our road atlas and often got lost en route.

Halfway across Arkansas, and late into the night after an especially grueling drive, we decided we needed to stop. We passed some motels, but decided to save some money by camping. The campground looked really close to the highway on the map and looked like it was next to a lake--maybe we could get some early morning swimming in before hitting the road again.

Our destination turned out to be miles down pitch-black roads on a new-moon night; the signs posted along the way weren't reflective, and so we probably traveled twice the distance after all the double- and triple-backing we had to do. When we finally came upon the campground, it was probably close to two in the morning. The ranger station was long closed and so we decided to find the campsites and just pay in the morning.

As we came around a particularly densely-wooded bend that lead to the campsites, we discovered that, while indeed the camping was lakeside, the lake was actually a reservoir for a huge power station a couple hundred yards across the water from us. The plant was covered with industrial floodlights that, due to the moonless night, lit up our campsite across the lake enough that we didn't need our flashlights to set up the tent. The plant also emitted a low-level buzz that was just loud enough to make it so once we were finally set up and in our sleeping bags, none of us could sleep--even the dog.

Finally, after a few hours of fitful, noisy, much-too-bright rest, we decided that we needed to leave. I'm not sure who first had the idea--for diplomacy's sake, I'm going to blame the dog, who's always had a bit of a "bad kid" streak in her--but it was decided that a horrible night's sleep and a headache from the industrial drone wasn't worth paying for and so (though we both feel like state parks are one of the great things in this country) we decided that we weren't going to pay for the campsite.

We began to roll up our sleeping bags and pack up the tent, when Janice turned to me and said, "I need to pee." I had to as well, and looking at Lucy we could see that she felt the same way, so the three of us scrambled into the forest to relieve ourselves. We were trying to be quiet, but the absurdity of the whole situation--the crazy drive, the horrible buzz, the floodlit campsite--came crashing down on us just as we were all standing there huddled around this one tree peeing. We started laughing. We laughed so hard that we began to worry about waking other campers, which only made us laugh harder still. We quickly tossed all our camping stuff into the car, and--lights off, so we wouldn't get caught driving past the ranger's station--got the hell out of there, chocking back laughter the whole way back down the winding roads that lead back to the highway. As we made our great escape, I said, the family that pees together, flees together, and we started laughing anew.

The reason for this lengthy story, Mr. Bush, is because that was the first time I called our funny little threesome--a city guy, a country girl, and a crazy dog--a "family," and now, years later, I think I'm starting to learn what that truly means.

Say hi to the family for me,



November 9, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

I was wondering if, as president, you have any say in how many hours are in a day. Because I could really use another couple in mine.



November 8, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

The first time Jeff called me from Baghdad my phones were tapped within days. That was just about six years ago. Your war wasn't even on the radar (neither were you, for that matter), and in place of the daily carnage of war, the Iraqi people were suffering under the slow-motion destruction of international sanctions instead. At the time, Jeff was working with an organization that traveled to Iraq in defiance of US law in order to bring medicine and books and other items to a people who desperately needed them. But what they also brought was more important: the hope that there were others back in America that cared for their plight as well.

I wonder today, as you unleash hell upon Falluja, if they know there are still people here that care?

Jeff travelled to Iraq more than a half dozen times since that phone call (and my office and home phones have been tapped on and off ever since). Every time he's there, he tells me stories about the people he meets--the young boys that crowd around his hotel, offering to shine his shoes for pennies; the cab drivers who always seemed to have some harebrained idea in their trunk; the heartbroken mothers stifling tears over their dying children--and with each story, I understand just a little more what true bravery is.

I heard on the radio today that it's unknown how many civilians are still living in Falluja as it bloodily transforms into the frontline of your war. How many of those people tried to live today like it was a normal day? How many of them snuck secret kisses? How many held a child's quivering hand? How many watered their plants, or fed a pet--today, of all days, Mr. Bush?

Do you think about them? Because I sure do. I can't help but place myself right there in that dusty town, holding my lover close, both of us fighting back the rising panic that's threatening to leap straight out from our chests as we hear the massive blows and smell the acrid smoke of war coming ever closer. And the thing is, Mr. Bush, that I will never, ever know what it's truly like. The people today that are forced to know--the ones caught in the middle of all of this insanity--are braver than you or I will ever be.

Here's to them,



November 7, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

There were children everywhere today. At a breakfast meeting, they were crawling across the floor, hiding behind the couch cushions, and spilling every conceivable liquid on every conceivable surface. Later in the day at a friend's house, they were watching TV and begging for just one more piece of candy from their halloween loot. Tonight they were at the grocery store, all afros and bows, wheeling down the aisle, calling after cereal boxes just out of reach. And today was the day that Janice and I told our friends that we were having one too.

Now, eight hours after that announcement, we have a car full of second-hand baby stuff eagerly handed down from a friend with children just a few years older, and it suddenly feels so much more real. It's one thing to know that there's a life growing inside the woman you love, a life that you'll love and help to raise for the rest of your time here, and quite another to have a trunk filled with vibrating chairs, portable play pens, and breast pumps. It makes you realize that the space you've cleared out in your heart for the kid to move in to isn't quite enough--you'll have to make space in your home and your life as well.

You were still drinking when Laura told you the news of your own children's existence. When you found out, did you pause for a moment, bottle in hand, and consider not taking another sip? Or did you pour a glass in celebration and not look back for five more years? Do you regret that now, not cleaning up when the girls were born, all pink and tiny and fragile, wanting a father to reach out and hold them, protect them from the world that was too new, too bright, and too loud? Or is it another one of those moments--can you even count them all anymore--where you made a mistake that can't ever be unmade?

I can't answer the questions of your past any easier than you can answer the unknowns of my family's present, Mr. Bush, and as a result this letter is a bit of an unfinished thought. But, in a way, I suppose not having a clean answer is appropriate. Answers are easy, and in their absence we both have to live with the decisions we make, the lives we help construct for those we love, and the choices that lead us, and them, into a future that is unknowable.

Sleep well,


November 6, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

The dogs ran wild today, ganging up on smaller ones, running as fast as their legs could carry them, howling at the sun, scrambling through the dirt. The dogs ran wild today, streaking through the tall grass, jumping over rotting logs, rolling in the mud puddles. The dogs ran wild today, after balls and toys and sticks and shadows. The dogs ran wild today, chasing themselves, chasing their tails, chasing their own whims and loves and hopes. The dogs ran wild today, and never once, not even for a moment, did they think of you.

And we all stood there--old friends, new friends, lovers--in the last-chance heat of the early November sun and tried our best to do the same.

Hugs to the new pup,



November 5, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

I went to a friend's gallery opening tonight. It's a retrospective of the last nine years of his rock poster art, which also means that it's a retrospective of the last nine years of his life. His posters looked incredible, mounted across a fifty-foot wall, climbing fifteen, twenty feet up, hundreds of exquisitely crafted works created for too little money (or none at all) simply because he loved a band, or loved the art, or probably a little bit of both. It was astounding, standing at the base of that wall, staring up and seeing my friend's hand in every one of these amusing little drawings. It makes me so proud, Mr. Bush, to be able to witness him make this stuff, to be a part of the process in my own small way, to watch passion transformed into these funny, strange, and beautiful posters.

But what was also astounding, standing there looking up, was realizing that so many of the bands on these posters were people that I was friends with once--or am friends with now, or grew up with, or will grow old with--and that realization caused me to think that this exhibit isn't an anomaly. It's not something that stands on its own, it is mirrored by the exhibits that other friends of mine have had in recent weeks, the books that friends have written, the stores and businesses they run, the music they've made; all of it stands as as a testament that we have built something new, something that is only now just coming into focus.

Standing there tonight, looking at those posters rising up clear to the ceiling, I realized that we have built this amazing moment in time. It's a time that will stand as a monument to the extraordinary efforts of too few people doing too much work; people who believed enough in chasing after their own unreachable dreams that somehow--impossibly--they actually reached them. It made me realize, Mr. Bush, that this isn't something that you can take away from us, because this is something that we built not because of you, but in spite of you. And it made me realize that, even in times as dark as these, wonderful things can be made with just a pencil and paper; that miracles can be created with only paint and ink; that dreams can be crafted from what is all around you.

Look around, Mr. Bush, because what surrounds you can truly set you free.

Thank god it's Friday,



November 4, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

There were two girls talking about you on the train today. They weren't a day over nine or ten, and had those high, piercing voices that launch themselves up over any other noise so that you're forced to listen to what they have to say, whether you like it or not. Today, like I said, they were talking about you.

"That George Bush should be happy that Barak Obama wasn't runnin' for president," the smaller one--she was probably closer to eight--said, while braiding and unbraiding one side of her hair. Her feet dangled off the side of the seat, absentmindedly brushing against a briefcase someone had set down next to her. "Because if Barak Obama had been running for President, he'da kicked George Bush's ass."

"Yeah, when I get old, I wanna run for president too, but I hope Obama doesn't run, 'cause he'd kick my ass too!" the other answered.

And I wanted to turn around and nod in their direction and say, Yeah, I know what you mean, but in just the few seconds it took to even think that, their conversation had meandered--the way the conversations of the very young and very bored do--from you, to discussing which was better: orange soda or Coke. Since it seemed like they were both coming down on the side of Coke, I realized that our brief moment of agreement had passed, and I though better than to be that creepy guy that talks to little girls on the train.

But this is how it's been for the last two days, Mr. Bush: you walk down the aisle of the grocery store, or drive down the street and peer into the car next to you, or overhear converations on the train, and you try and build little coalitions--little unions of like-mindedness--in the hopes that somehow you may not feel as marginalized as every newspaper you walk by makes you feel.

And so, Mr. Bush, I feel it's only fair that you know that tonight the coalition of the train riding tweens and the almost 30-year-old adjunct facultymembers declared the following: Barak Obama would kick your ass.

Talk to you tomorrow,


November 3, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

Well, it looks like we'll be living together for another four years. I will admit right out front here that I'm not all that happy about this turn of events. I have been working hard for the last four years to see to it that this didn't happen. But best laid plans, as they say, and here we are. Together again.

So I thought instead that I'd try a different tact. You're not going anywhere and I'm not going anywhere, so I figure it's about time we get to know each other. The fact of the matter is that I know quite a bit about you--you are, after all, the leader of the free world (or so they tell me)--but you probably don't know all that much about me. And, as a result, you probably aren't thinking about me, or others like me, when going about your daily business. So, Mr. Bush, I've decided to become a part of that daily business, by writing you these letters. One a day for the next four years.

Mr. Bush, I'll be turning 30 in a little over a week. It's interesting--people keep asking me "aren't you afraid of turning 30?" but I'm really not. In fact, I'm kind of looking forward to it. I've always felt older than my actual age. I remember back in third grade I got skipped to the fourth grade reading class. The way my school was laid out, the third grade was on its own separate floor, and to go to the fourth grade classrooms meant venturing into a part of the school I'd never been to, to hang out with kids I didn't know. You'd think that it'd be really scary for this third grader with a lisp to walk down that staircase to the fourth and fifth grade hallway. But I remember being really excited about it. To me, it meant that I was a bigger kid than everyone thought I was, which, being kind of awkward and shy and having a speech impediment, was a big deal. The truth is, Mr. Bush, that everyone probably thought that I was really kind of a wimpy, freaky kid, and, when I look back at it now, they were probably right. But back then, walking down that hallway, not knowing who was going to be in that classroom, I remember feeling old and brave and different. And it felt good.

Mr. Bush, that's kind of how this birthday feels to me as well. It feels like I'm cracking open that door so many years ago, taking a breath, and walking into that classroom. Like I can be old and not be worried about what the other people will think so much. I went to speech therapy not long after third grade (kids would make fun of me, and I asked my mom for help) and learned a lot about myself in the ensuing years. I'm not so shy anymore, or very nervous anymore either, but I still have this feeling that I'm older than I am. And it's nice to feel like I'm coming upon a moment in life where how old I feel and how old I'll be will come more in line. Do you ever feel like that, Mr. Bush? I'd imagine there have been times where you have.

It's getting late, and I still have papers to grade, so I should wrap this up. I'll talk to you tomorrow.

Give my love to the girls,


PS. Interestingly enough, I ended up befriending the one fifth grader who had been kept back in reading and had to take the fourth grade class over again. We would hang out sometimes at lunch. I remember he had a bowl cut and later on, in high school, he became a skinhead. Now he works--maybe he's a co-owner, I'm not sure--at a bar in Minneapolis. I hope he's doing well.