i started writing this book by going on a train ride in november 2013. for 15 days, i met people around the country & asked them to talk about themselves & - oh my god - people talk about themselves
i still watch the videos i took. one dude gave me 2 hours of anti-corporate, deep-internet alien theories, then pulled up at a bar & played ‘piano man’ by billy joel flawlessly. everybody sang.
a prospector in nevada (literally, he searches for gold for a living, but in a cool, modern way) bought me a “glass” of really nice scotch…then sat in a back alley w me for 15 minutes while i puked it up. evidently you’re not supposed to drink it like a shot.
i met a woman who used to take the train with her husband, but he’d been dead for a while so now she just took it when she had a sunday off & could remember it.
she loved her husband a lot. she said it hurt a lot when he died.
she said the day after he died was the first time she ever really looked at the paintings in her office.
i told her i didn’t really like paintings, & she said she didn’t either, it was a metaphor
she said it was also the first day that she really looked at karen, a secretary in her office. she’d never felt any particular way about karen, but she realized that day that she loved karen
then she started saying ALL OF THESE NICE THINGS ABOUT KAREN. karen was nice, karen was thoughtful, karen was lovely, but afraid to seem like she wanted to be liked. karen had a lot of friends but was never boastful about it. karen was super good at cross-stitching or something.
it was the kind of shit you could only care about if you really, really looked at karen. by the end of the conversation, i loved karen.
we were sitting in a nearly empty train compartment, somewhere between truckee, ca & elko, nevada. & she cracked the whole code for me.
she said the day she was really free,
was the day she figured out how to look at the people around her
& feel lucky for every single one of them
she said all you had to do was decide to be grateful,
& all of a sudden,
you’d start finding reasons to love everything around you.
so past that point, she loved everybody as though they were her late husband. she figured out how to love the sister she didn’t really talk to anymore, the ornery woman who took the tickets, the strangers on the train, me.
i’m not as good as her yet, but i’m working on it.
i’m so lucky to know the people i know. i’m so lucky for the chance to know the people i don’t. i’m so lucky to have gotten 26 years, i’m lucky that the odds say i get 26 more.
i’m so lucky to have paradise fears & the family that surrounds it. now i’m so lucky to have joanna & ben & harper collins. i’m so lucky to get to put out a book.
side note: it’s a fictional book. none of those stories made it in, exactly. the book’s about a profoundly sad kid & his profoundly confusing grandfather. it’s a mystery, & i’m very, very proud of it. more on that later.
anyway, thank you for reading, always. today, i’m grateful for this life. in particular, i’m grateful for this insanely beautiful cover from victo ngai.