His father's gravestone was a handsome granite; carved into it in Times New Roman were his father’s name, the dates of his birth and death, and the epitaph that his father had requested: “Dead artists roll over in their graves.” Hopper breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that he could report to his mother and sisters that all the dates and spellings were correct, and that the gravesite had not yet been desecrated by any of his fans.
They strolled leisurely to Birgit’s apartment and talked about their children. Perhaps for the first time today, Hopper relaxed. He admired the lengths to which Charlize went to protect her children from all the ways that parents encourage and feed their children’s paranoia and neuroses. “All parents damage their kids,” she said. “I just want to keep that damage to a minimum.”
Since their sister's passing, neither Ingrid nor Heidi had visited Birgit’s apartment, which they jointly inherited. “Neither Heidi nor I want to own the apartment,” Ingrid explained to Hopper, “and we just can’t bring ourselves to go there.” However, before the sisters allowed a broker to inspect the residence, they asked Hopper to look it over and stay the night while he was in New York. “You want me to find the porn stash and hide it before anyone finds it?” he asked them over a Zoom.
“Do all the writers live in Elaine’s?” he asked. “No, Hopper, but you will always find the important writers at Elaine’s,” she said. “Elaine understands us in ways that even your father can’t. She understands that writing is the hardest thing in the world.”
Richard Nixon, Betty Draper, Dien Bien Phu Coronavirus, Walter Cronkite, Star Wars, 2 Live Crew Edmund Muskie, Simone Biles, rising student debt Napalm Children, Civil Rights, brand new cigarette There it is again, that funny feeling That funny feeling
“Yes, it is,” Olympia barked. “That’s why I am glad that Silver called me on it. We had quite a fight about the journals. She called me on what she described as my “avarice and ambition.” She was right. I gotta give the girl props for keeping her agency.”
“If you want to have a relationship with someone, you have to work on it,” Ingrid told Hopper. “Your trouble is that having friends is just not that important to you.”
“You can always tell that you are in a neighborhood filled with high rates of unreported crime by how many private art galleries are located there,” Hopper’s father told him. “There are more art galleries in New York than any other city, and more art galleries on the Upper East Side than any other neighborhood in the world.” Hopper's father called this phenomenon "stained-collar crime."
At Huey’s memorial service, Hopper’s eulogy recalled the words from their conversation about 432 Park Avenue. “The world – and the Indiana State Police -- can try to change the rules of math and claim that 2+2 does not equal four,” Hopper said, “but Huey would be quick to point out that any builder who thinks otherwise will see their creations crash to the ground.”
As the pandemic hit the East Coast, my barber shop closed. At the same time, people began to improvise masks. I vowed not to cut my hair again until an efficacious vaccine was running through Dr. Fauci’s and my veins. I was able to amuse myself in many ways, among them my "art project": creating a monthly “Hair and Mask Update” on social media.
Mayor Andrew Yang had expressed concern about so many people traveling to the city from states where vaccination levels remained low. “I want them coming to New York to spread their cash around, not COVID-19,” he said. “Our city’s positivity rate remains one of the lowest in the country, but we have thousands of tourists arriving every day from places where too many people believe that the vaccines will implant magnets and nano computers into them or turn them into Knicks fans.”
“Silver, I may have been awkward back then, but I was responsible and dutiful when I was still in the crib,” Hopper said. “Any act of my younger self that would come back to haunt me occurred only when you and Olympia dragged me into your Daria dramas and cosplay.” Silver was silent. Hopper thought he had hit a nerve. He didn’t hate his sister, not really, and he did not want to hurt her, either.
“I would recognize you anywhere,” Dilly told Hopper, “even though you stopped cutting your hair and are hiding behind that cute face mask. You walk around in public like a man who is wearing only a large diaper, hoping no one notices that he is barefoot.”
Hopper had acquired his fear of heights when, at the age of eight and standing in the cupola of the Empire State Building’s 102nd floor observatory, he diverted his gaze from New Jersey across the Hudson River to look down. Though encased in impenetrable glass and concrete, Hopper imagined a force of nature -- or perhaps a mystical intervention – forcing him through the building’s membrane and hurtling him towards a violent and gruesome death on the street below, like Evelyn McHale.
“Again, let me explain it to you, Hopper,” Ingrid began, “even though you already know the answer. You are a jerk and impossible to live with – and I am grateful for our divorce – but we are always going to have something between us. It’s like we are still married even though we stopped being married. It’s both disconcerting and wonderful that I can always count on my ex-husband to have my back.”
Olympia had been designated as the “Chloe Sevigny of her generation.” She was the girl everyone wanted to succeed so they could watch her fail and collapse. She disappointed on that front; rather than collapse, she just faded from view.
Lola looked at the ceiling for a moment, then at the new abstract painting, then sipped his martini. “Like that painting over there, we all harbor our complexities, Hopper,” he said.
The movie adaptation of Hopper’s first book had been sidetracked when Reese Witherspoon fell in love with his sister Olympia’s fake journal. “The whole story about 'Astrid' may be a lie,” Reese told Olympia’s mother, “but it is a brilliant, well-told lie by a representative of the new feminist literary wave.”
Hopper believed that his parents had agreed between themselves to use the phrase “My son, the bestselling author” whenever discussing or introducing him. Hopper had heard these five words uttered in the same adoring tone hundreds of times. Now his mother got to add, “I’m adapting my son’s bestselling book for the screen.”
“A friend of mine recorded an audio tour of the church,” she said. “You play a cassette tape, and you can follow along to learn about which popstars were discovered in which bathroom in the eighties, who f**ked who in which bathroom in the nineties, and which drug dealer was arrested in which bathroom in this decade.”
“Never, tyrant!” Silver shouted as she thrust the blade of a paring knife into his back, just below the right scapula. Hopper turned around, the knife still stuck in his back, and shouted, “Jesus, Silver! You could have just played rock, paper, scissors for it.” Silver shrugged her shoulders.
Hopper felt safe walking around in public with a face covering. He liked the anonymity he assumed by covering half of his face. He felt immune from being accosted by the harbingers of past mistakes who could not recognize him behind his mask.
At that moment, Hopper Tilley-Blandin was feeling mostly…annoyance. Once again -- in his mind -- his mother and his younger sisters Olympia and Silver had foisted upon him an act of fealty to a family whose ties were fraying following his parents’ sudden divorce and his father’s subsequent, freakish death.
Perhaps the most striking and frightening aspect of the MAGAland flight from reality is the habit of treating facts as though they were mere opinions. This is a very serious thing, not only because it often makes discussion so hopeless, but primarily because the average MAGA supporter honestly believes this free-for-all, this nihilistic relativity about facts, to be the essence of democracy.
Over every dinner – by now well over 365 meals -- my wife and I make a toast. We look each other in the eye, smile wistfully, and say, “another day.” We have survived one more day. More importantly, we are making plans, looking forward to what tomorrow brings, and continuing to manage risks in a world that has always tried to kill us.
“God is a Middle-Aged Woman” was originally recorded by Ezra Furman and the Harpoons in 2007. Ezra Furman was 21 years old. This song always astonished me, partly because of the youth of its composer and partly because of its depth and wisdom.
The veils of memory tend to obscure the beginnings of things, but for the solitary soul with any imagination, there is no end to the variety of possible endings to a story. The reason or reasons I ended up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1990 are subject to the whims of marriage and family, the conveniences of geography and transportation, and advances in technology, mixed with the fear of the unknown. Replaying in my mind all the scenarios for my departure from Harrisburg nearly three decades later leaves me certain now, from the moment I arrived in Pennsylvania’s capital city from New York, that I would be leaving.
Several years ago, the mother of a young son asked me about the experiences of being an only child. She was considering whether or not to have another child; she was concerned that being an “only” would present challenges to her son that could be alleviated by having a sibling.
I conceived of this photo essay in October 2020 before the presidential election. My goal was to record either how our nation’s capital handled the transition from one administration to another or how Washingtonians would react to the prospect of living four more years with a President who had declared war on the city’s norms. One hundred and nineteen photos comprise this exhibit.
What I am about to describe is not intended to inspire others to follow our path. My wife and I decided to drive across the country in the new year so that we could winter in Tucson, Arizona (that very same Arizona, which was portrayed by the darkest of dark reds on the New York Times indicating rates of COVID-19 infections).
Three times since the November election, I have observed in person crowds that have descended upon Washington DC in support of President Voldemort. And then today the Trump mob stormed the Capitol as Congress was in the process of certifying the Electoral College vote. As the District locks down under a 6:00 PM curfew, I want to share some observations.
Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
“Mother, 2020 is the year where all the old Christmas traditions get thrown in the dumpster fire,” Olympia said. “But at least we have a fake Christmas tree,” her mother responded. The final installment of the short-story series, “The 12 Days of the Tilley-Blandin Coronavirus Christmas.”
Silver could not escape the feeling that listening to Taylor Swift made her want to break up with Louis and listening to Joni Mitchell made her want to marry Louis. The eleventh installment of the series, “The 12 Days of the Tilley-Blandin Coronavirus Christmas.”
Louis Guidry received an unexpected phone call from the father of his girlfriend, Silver Tilley-Blandin. Louis did not know if her father was the Tilley or the Blandin, and it seemed to him to be the family joke that neither Silver nor her siblings knew, either. The tenth installment of the series, “The 12 Days of the Tilley-Blandin Coronavirus Christmas.”
Between the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the ongoing threats to her and her family from the unceasing COVID-19 pandemic, and enforcing the short-lived, horrific PPE Act of 2020, Officer Alexandra Sykes felt broken. The ninth installment of the series, “The 12 Days of the Tilley-Blandin Coronavirus Christmas.”
Hopper Tilley-Blandin paused at his latest crossroad. This time, the choice was not between this random thing or that random thing. It was not even a choice between the two women, his ex-wife Ingrid Brzezinski or Charlize Theron, the girlfriend who had been on-and-off ghosting him since the onset of the pandemic. No, his choice: retreat to the safety of his family or move forward with someone outside the protective, insulated shell provided his family. The eighth installment of the short-story series, “The 12 Days of the Tilley-Blandin Coronavirus Christmas.”
Reese Witherspoon is hosting a Zoom call with Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Hopper Tilley-Blandin, and Hopper’s parents. The working title of the movie they are discussing is “The Living Canvases.” Hopper hates the title. The seventh installment of the series, “The 12 Days of the Tilley-Blandin Coronavirus Christmas.”
Silver, Olympia, Hopper, and their parents received an unexpected message from Mia Gottschall, a New York attorney who represented mostly artists and writers and their families. Among Gottschall’s clients was the singer Fiona Apple, whom Silver and Olympia called “Mother Apple.” The sixth installment of the short-story series, “The 12 Days of the Tilley-Blandin Coronavirus Christmas.”
The following text exchanges were captured from the mobile devices of Huey Newton Wallace, Huey’s ex-girlfriend Olympia Tilley-Blandin, Ingrid Brzezinski, Ingrid’s ex-husband Hopper Tilley-Blandin, the actress Charlize Theron. The fifth installment of the short-story series, “The 12 Days of the Tilley-Blandin Coronavirus Christmas.”
"Christmas? What's that? I guess that I we can do some kind of Facetime or Zoom with Birgit. Exchange gifts over Amazon. Pray that we stay healthy while we wait for the vaccine." The fourth installment of the short-story series, “The 12 Days of the Tilley-Blandin Coronavirus Christmas.”
How very glad and relieved she was that Reese had not let slip to anyone where she was located. She was also glad that she did not celebrate American holidays like Thanksgiving. It would have only disappointed the expectations of her friends and agent that she did not land a photo on TMZ for her sumptuous, envy-inducing feast. The third installment of the series, “The 12 Days of the Tilley-Blandin Coronavirus Christmas."
On the day before Thanksgiving, while on their daily stroll through a section of Washington, DC that this nauseatingly cute, white hipster couple had dubbed the “Death Zone,” Silver Tilley-Blandin turned to her boyfriend Louis Guidry and said, “Your name came up again on the internet.” Thus begins the second installment of the series, “The 12 Days of the Tilley-Blandin Coronavirus Christmas.”
Following the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and looking forward to a holiday season like no other, we take another look at what's going on within the Tilley-Blandin universe.
“I love Christmas more than anything -- other than shooting at things and making lethal contact,” the older white man said into the recording studio microphone. “Just got myself a Christmas present, a new Remington 7600. Santy Claus better wear some blaze orange when he comes around just to be sure.”
Because of financial difficulties, he will be forced to sell Mar-a-Lago. To the Obamas.
I feel as though I am about to exhale after holding my breath for 3 years and 360something days. Many people are calling for a return to normal, but who’s normal are we discussing? I suggest that we are going to have to create a new normal for ourselves, regardless of the outcome of the election.
We turn our attention to how some so-called leaders of Christian faiths have conned their followers into supporting Donald Trump.
We turn our attention to Joe Biden’s and Donald Trump’s attitudes toward immigration and immigrants and I ask you to take a quick quiz.
We turn our attention to Donald Trump’s suitability to lead the most powerful military apparatus in the world. Our Commander-in-Chief’s relationship with our armed forces is, at best, complicated. Would you want to frag him?