A Work of Fiction (part 2)

I Married OJ (part two, draft one)

OJ and I didn’t wind up moving to Arizona.   When my parents got back from their trip we had dinner with them.   My parents were not the easiest people to impress, to put it mildly, but everything went fine and OJ was very charming.   They seemed to like him.   Fortunately for everybody, my fucking uncle was not at dinner with us that night, fouling the mood like a flapping harpy.   He would have made one of his indigestibly snarky comments when OJ left his usual very generous tip, after picking up the check.   “Jesus, OJ, only a 40% tip?  Was the waiter a putz?”   Actual quote, from lunch at the Jackson Diner on another occasion.  My father and mother exchanged a pointed glance at the size of the tip (they always calculated their 15% to the dime), but that was it.

One of the things I loved about OJ, which was in complete contrast to my skinflint family– OJ enjoyed the finer things in life and liked living large.   He didn’t hesitate to give his money to people who made him happy, or to buy things either of us wanted.  I saw a beautiful pair of cowboy boots one day when we were walking in the city.  They were ridiculously expensive, but exquisite.   He saw that I loved them, yet I resisted getting them.  And then, ten minutes later, I was wearing them, carrying my former boots in a bag.  “If you love it, and you have the money, why hesitate?” OJ said, after casually dropping hundreds on the boots that made me so happy.   I had never heard it put so simply and so directly.  Nobody in the history of my family had ever spoken such words, or handled money with such a light, non-possessive touch.

He didn’t care what the price was, it was just a number, he always said.  If it made you happy, it was yours. When we moved in together it was the first time I ever experienced that easy way of life.  It was so liberating, not to agonize over whether you really needed something.  If you like it– buy it!  Why not tip the sales girl who had been so helpful?   Hey, they work hard, don’t get paid much, she was great, why not show her some love, money makes everybody happy.  It’s a pleasure to be generous, particularly when you come from a family that watches every dollar the way mine always did.   I felt liberated from a cramped cage I hadn’t even realized I was trapped in.

We had two very good incomes and no children back then, although our two little rescue dogs, Heckle and Jeckle, were like our kids.   Heckle was black and Jeckle was white and OJ joked that we had smashed the racist stereotype of those two cartoon magpies by integrating the duo.   My uncle gave me shit, of course, about my new collection of high-end cowboy boots, but, that was him.  Why do we work hard to earn money if not to enjoy the things it can buy?  A question my uncle never had an answer for, funny for a man who considered himself a great moral philosopher and who lived like a penitent monk.  

I made a good living managing a health club and OJ was taking in an excellent income as a salesman.  He sold high end fine art reproductions for a company called Portal.  Portal had the license to print the works of the Impressionists, Van Gogh and a lot of other beautiful paintings.   The reproductions were gorgeous, we had a couple framed in our home.   They also had a line of fine art greeting cards and what is now called “merch” with their beautiful licensed images on them, mugs and t-shirts and things like that.   He used to say Portal’s stuff sold itself.   He was part of a team that was very close and the boss really loved OJ.  How could you not love someone like OJ?  All he wanted was to be happy and make other people happy.  He was very popular at Portal and the star of their softball and basketball teams.

In fact, my uncle himself said that the home run OJ hit at Central Park, in a pickup game my uncle was also playing in, was the hardest hit, longest home run he’d ever seen outside of a major league ballpark.  

Then the Recession hit.  It hit everybody, but, of course, in sales you feel it first, particularly if you are selling discretionary items like fine art reproductions.  Business slowed a little bit and OJ did something that in retrospect was a bad mistake.   He realized one day that the enormous sample book he carried with him in his car, with hundreds of beautiful items, was worth a lot of money.    

He started selling it off for cash to store owners who were looking for a deal.   It was a mistake.  He sold the samples and then told the boss his car had been robbed and the sample book stolen.   Although they loved him at Portal, and immediately replaced the first lost sample book, when the second sample book entered the stream of commerce, and unbeknownst to OJ there was a tiny code on the back of each sample page that led straight back to the salesman, he was done.

My uncle the piker had inherited $25,000 when his wife died.  He had the remaining $20,000 or so in a CD, which at that time paid something like 10% interest.   Then he got a letter from the IRS that made him paranoid, since he hadn’t filed taxes on his meager income in several years.   He didn’t want the IRS to seize his measly $20,000 so he asked OJ and I to keep it in a CD under our names.   It was really no problem.  If he ever needed money from the CD we would withdraw it, take him out to lunch and give him the money.  

So one day over lunch OJ told my uncle that he’d lost his job, was out looking for work and mentioned that we had a temporary cash flow problem, and that we were trying to get pregnant, my uncle was soon going to be a great-uncle.   He asked my uncle if he could borrow the money in the CD.  He told him he’d pay it back, with interest, in a very short time.  To his credit, my uncle didn’t hesitate, though it still strikes me as odd all these years later.

In the clear light of hindsight, that loan was the real beginning of everything turning to shit with my family.


A Work of Fiction

I Married OJ   (part one, draft one)

He was incredibly handsome, that was the first thing I noticed when he smiled at me at Shea Stadium that early summer day, the first time we were introduced.  It is very important to be good looking in this world, I have always believed, more important than almost anything else.  He was an extremely good looking man.  He was big, and looked incredibly strong, and at ease with himself, he carried himself like an athlete, which it turns out he was.  His presence was electric.  He was unhappily married to my best friend’s sister, or had been, they were separated, practically divorced.    There were six of us in that little group, and tens of thousands at the stadium cheering for the Mets, but at the same time, it seemed like we were the only two people there, the way he looked at me.  It felt like being in a wonderful Hollywood movie.

I should point out right at the start that I am not, of course, married to OJ, the infamous OJ who was possibly the most charismatic man in America before he went insane and hacked two people’s heads off.  “OJ” is the nickname my father and my fucking uncle gave my husband around the time of that trial, when OJ used his millions, his celebrity, his charm and his newly discovered blackness to buy his way out of the murder charges.  It was a vicious nickname, although my husband, who has a perverse streak, embraced it from the start.   At first he used the name as a fuck you to my judgmental family,  referring to himself as OJ, then it just became his name between us.  Funny how these things happen.  

I was twenty-two when we met and in the best shape of my life.  OJ and I started dating right after that Mets game, more than dating, we saw each other every day. He’d be waiting for me when I got off work.   My hyper-opinionated uncle, who I already implied was something of a prick, always reminded me that my purse, stolen from under my box seat that day I met OJ, was an omen of things to come.   He even claimed that OJ had pocketed the cash in my wallet and tossed the purse on his way to the bathroom.  That’s the kind of sick fuck my uncle was.

Our love affair began as one of those whirlwind romances.  We were both swept off our feet.  From the beginning I knew this was a man who would always protect me.  His combative side was something I admired, he was fearless when facing down other men.   I felt like I could go anywhere with him and be completely safe.  He had this wonderful easy ability to calm me whenever I felt afraid, his strength felt like my own superpower.  I knew he would do anything for me.  Which was true, as he proved over and over in those early days.  He came to know me better than anyone I’ve ever met.

[editor’s note:  shit, this is not going to be as smooth a sail as I imagined when I was excited about setting this story down.  This is going to be fucking work.]

The problems with my judgmental family started right away.   We were at my family’s place, grilling some steaks in the backyard.  My parents were away and we were enjoying a summer evening when my fucking uncle just happened to drop by. My father’s little brother was fifteen years younger than my father, it sometimes felt he was my own brother as much as my uncle.   A brother like Cain, I should say. My uncle was five years older than OJ and from their first exchange they seemed like two brothers destined for violence.  

They clashed that first evening and the argument continued to escalate until my uncle’s heart attack twenty years later.  My uncle’s problem was that he thought he was my father.  That was one of his problems.  His larger problem was that he was a frustrated asshole, one of these intellectual types who think they understand more than anybody else and constantly remind people of all the important books he read that they had never even heard of.

OJ was a voracious reader himself, devoured books, was always reading three or four at a time.  So he took no shit from my uncle when the argument over whatever they were arguing about started.   In these situations the subject of the argument is only a pretext for fighting.  OJ never backed down from a fight and neither did my uncle.   It was sport for my uncle, this hostile intellectual jousting, and it was the first time I saw that it was also something OJ fell into quite naturally.   They fought for a while and then my uncle caught me in the kitchen and asked what my parents thought of this “pretentious ape.”   

The question caught me unawares, OJ and I were talking about moving to Tucson, Arizona and were thinking of doing it before my parents got back from their long holiday.   OJ had told my uncle that we were moving right before my uncle slipped into the kitchen.  As for my parents’ long multi-continental vacation, it’s not that they were wealthy international jet-setters, it was my mother’s cancer diagnosis, and the bad news my father was given after the operation, that caused my father to reach into their savings and arrange a long vacation involving airplanes, cruise ships and visas to a dozen or more countries my mother had always wanted to see.  

“Don’t you think your parents should at least meet this intractable asshole before you start your life with him?”  my uncle said, using the term ‘intractable asshole’, like the intractable asshole he was.  I told my uncle to grow up, and get himself a new thesaurus while he was at it.   My uncle began snarling back, OJ came in, my uncle wished us both all the best, got back into his car and roared off.  

“Nice family,” OJ said, deadpan, and we had a laugh.   That’s another thing, OJ was hilarious.

Widaen Begins Freaking Out — study for the book proposal



Kurt Vonnegut had a great bit in Slaughterhouse Five, a scene where American POWs are shipped by cattle car in the brutal cold to serve as slave laborers in Nazi Germany.   The first day men were struck with dysentery, and the car filled with their runny excrement, which then froze.   To the groans and complaints a bum in the corner said, “you think this is bad? I’ve seen much worse than this.”

The next night, in frigid temperature, with no food or water, men began to die.   Conditions got progressively more desperate as the train made its way to Dresden.   “You think this is bad?” said the bum “I’ve seen much worse than this.”

The third day, writes Vonnegut, the bum died.  

Dig it.   Welcome to Widaen begins to freak out.


A writer’s dream

A writer dreams of his words moving a reader.   Leading a reader from one place, through other places, to a place where the reader understands the bigger picture, the tiniest part of the big picture, sees something new, is moved in heart and mind.   Pretty good dream from deploying some symbols on a page.

We arrange these symbols for words until they make the sense we are searching for. The words, once arrayed, can be tweaked, and shifted, until they become unmistakably clear, or infinitely suggestive, or soothing, or terrifying.   A miracle, really, that so much can be conveyed with the dedicated use of these symbols.  Writing/reading is probably the highest evolution of human ingenuity.    

“What do you think of Western civilization?” someone asked the little Indian man in the diaper-like garment.  

“A great idea, I think they should attempt that shit,” said the snide little devotee of Ahimsa.