Authors: Jason Mulgrew
Everything Is Wrong with Me
A Memoir of an American Childhood Gone, Well, Wrong
to my parents…
my god, i’m sorry
A Break, a Beginning
Love, Second Street-Style
Intermezzo: Faith, Baptism, Prison
Athletics, Sports, and Crap
On the Relationship Between Genetics and Hustling
Intermezzo: The Top Six Most Influential Songs of My Adolescence
My Bird: Inadequacy and Redemption
Guns. Fucking Guns.
“Did I Ever Tell You About the Time I Got Arrested for Attempted Murder?”
After creating a formula that combines the amount of alcohol involved, the number of years passed, the character/integrity of the protagonists, and my distaste for fact-checking, I have determined that the following is between 94 and 97 percent true. Thank you for your support.
riting a book is a fantastical exercise in manic depression.
The highs, when they come, are magnificent. Throughout my life, I’ve rarely experienced such surges of adrenaline. I don’t really play sports, mostly because they seem like a lot of work. I don’t particularly care about my job, although it allows me to make lots of personal phone calls, because like many people my age I have forsaken inspiration for a steady paycheck. Nor do I do anything that I can be particularly proud of. Volunteering seems like a scam to me. (Work for free? Really?) I am not a member of any organizations, fraternities, or brotherhoods, because all the bonding creeps me out a little bit. And I have no children, or at least none that I care to acknowledge; I’m no Gregor Mendel, but when you mix Irish Catholic and Asian you’re not supposed to get a child that looks like a Chinese Rudy Huxtable, so I’m not going to be the one to pay $450 a month.
Previously, my greatest accomplishment came when touring Europe as a college student several years ago. In one glorious stretch, I consumed so much alcohol, so many barbiturates, and so much
that my reckless behavior resulted in me peeing the bed in six European countries in a span of twenty-six days.
It was difficult, but I was determined. And I have a drinking problem, so that helped. And yes, I was single at the time (and as of this writing, still am).
Not to belittle my accomplishment, which was and will always be extraordinary, but the thrill I got from peeing in all those foreign countries does not compare to the rush of writing a book. I have learned that in the spectrum of adrenaline rushes,
. There are moments in the writing process when all of your research, your outlines, and your preparation come together and you are just
it. Your fingers work like pistons pummeling the keyboard and the words fly onto the page so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. You zone out everything else and you just see it—the characters, alive; the setting, before your eyes; the story, just as you had experienced it; all the different words you can use for
preferential treatment given to the simple and effective
—and it’s magic. You’ll even run out of beer but be so into the writing that you can’t stop and won’t stop to get another. So you’ll scream at your roommate Brian to bring you one. When he doesn’t, you’ll realize it’s because Brian moved out over two years ago and you no longer have a roommate. So maybe you don’t need another beer. Slow down there, tiger.
When you finally stop typing, you’ll bolt up from your chair, your hands quivering, tears of joy streaming down your face, sporting a decent half erection because, really, it’s a miracle you can even get a halfie going with your high blood pressure.
Then you’ll read over what has just poured out of you and you’ll say, “Yes, I have done it. I have fucking done it. I am a great writer. And I still need a beer.” But because your roommate Brian is being a dick and still hasn’t brought you one, you’ll have to get it yourself. Or again, maybe it’s because he moved out. A long, long time ago. Semantics. Probably should get some water instead.
These are the best times: You’ve written something that you’re proud of and you can be happy, truly happy with yourself. The feeling is not unlike falling in love with someone new, but without all the nervousness and the sex. Actually, there may be sex involved for some writers, but there wasn’t with me. Which sucked.
But sadly, these moments of intense joy are few and far between. They represent probably less than 1 percent of the book-writing experience, since it is hard to sustain such stretches of inspiration, especially when TNT is almost constantly running a
Law & Order
marathon. And when these fleeting instances of productivity escape, they are replaced by dark, dark times. Seconds of pleasure give way to hours of staring at a blinking cursor on the blank page, wondering where and how to begin. This is one of the most overwhelming and intimidating feelings a person can have, right up there with taking your driver’s license test, or making a marriage proposal, or the first time you go to a gay club, or the first time you realize you like and possibly even
being at a gay club.
Three people who have very little concept of parenting. Two people who drank too much that night and later vomited because of it.
And when the moments of clarity are slow to come, self-doubt creeps in. The thoughts come at you in rapid succession: “What the hell am I doing? I’m not qualified to write a book! It took me a month and a half to find the
on the keyboard, so in most of my first draft I used
instead!” and “Why can’t I figure this out? What the hell is wrong with me? How hard can it possibly be to throw my family under the bus so that I can buy a high-def TV and force them to cut off contact with me for the rest of my life?” and “Holy shit—I just realized that I haven’t showered in four days! Something smells like hot-dog water and I think it’s coming from my pants!” Sadness sinks you. Depression takes over. And the only thing you can do is get drunk, troll the Internet for sex, and hope it turns around.
I was warned that many first-time authors have difficulty with the enormity of the task of writing a book, so I tried to be prepared. I took a leave of absence from my full-time job to write this memoir, so I had plenty of time to record anecdotes from Little League, when I spent my time on the bench learning about sex from the older players (and no, not in that way).
I had months to write down the memories of those first few Christmas mornings when my dad would wince when I made a bigger deal about getting
on VHS than now owning “every single [expletive deleted] He-Man guy.” Weeks and weeks to recollect the halcyon days when I was thin, mostly hairless, and handsome, those days that I miss so much when every Saturday night I look at myself in the shower and realize that yes, I, Jason Mulgrew, now a grown-ass man, look like a fucking bear when I’m naked.
No, the first task was to take stock of my life in the more immediate sense. Like a general in wartime, I looked at the situation, immersed myself in thought and cheap vodka, and came up with a battle plan. If I was going to write a good book, I needed to create the proper environment in which to write this book. Once I felt comfortable in the physical sense, the words would flow.
I had to clean my room. My bedroom was where most of the writing would take place, and to be successful I needed to
successful, to give the impression of success. I threw out all the empty beer cans and half-eaten mozzarella sticks that had accumulated on my desk over the past few months, as I needed a proper workspace. Then I turned my attention to the closet, which was a nest of such horror and depravity that I dare not speak of it in depth here, as I am just now getting over the night terrors it caused me (lesson: just because after you masturbate into an old pair of boxers you throw it into the depths of your closet, that doesn’t mean that it magically disappears). Then I cried. Then I made the bed. Finally, I was done. And it only took two weeks.
Once my room was in tip-top shape, I turned my attention to the living room, which I decided needed a new furniture arrangement. I would say that this was an attempt to create an apartment more in line with feng shui, but I have no idea what feng shui is.
After several attempts, the discovery of two neatly rolled and nicely preserved joints, and four broken fingers, I settled on theater-type tiered sitting, with my loveseat in front of the larger couch in front of a few folding chairs. This process of trial and error took thirty-three days. Not a bad way to spend a month.
I felt like I was getting closer to the book. I would think about it a lot, often discussing it over drinks with friends or with strangers I met while vacationing in Mexico, Florida, Hawaii, and Mexico again. I was so enamored with Mexico that during one of these trips I decided that as a side project to the memoir, I would write a history of the Oaxaca region. I figured that this side project, which would really be more of a fictional history due to my aversion to research, would help my ideas flow for this book. So I began preparations to begin work on this new endeavor, namely by writing a letter to my editor asking for an advance of at least $46,000 for “purposes of ensconnsing [
] myself with the people, cultere [
] and love of the people of Mexico, and their cultere, [
], and the love, and miscellaneius [
] expenses related hitherto.” But then I found another bottle of tequila under the floorboards of the little hut in which I was staying and, to be honest, I forget what happened over the next three or four days. I don’t think I got around to that history, though, because I found the unsent letter to my editor when preparing my taxes the following year in the process of tracking down receipts to write off these trips as business-related.