Critiquing the hooks for the fangs-fur-fey contest was interesting. I’m planning to write about it in my next essay for Storytellers — my March essay ended up on the 25th instead of the 20th, and my April essay never happened due to all-consuming personal life stuff (which I’ll also be writing about at some point, just not yet, still in the processing period) — but I should be resuming normal online life this week.
It’s downright odd when someone you know who’s often portrayed in the media disappears from your life, so that you’re reading about him in the news like everyone else, and that’s all you know about what’s going on with him, at least until you meet up with him again and get his version of things. His version is biased, of course, but the media representation is not fully accurate either — I only have to look at articles about my own husband to see that*, or have conversations with the smart, educated, lowkey daughter of famous politician parents. She grew up with the media depiction of one parent in particular as an often-frustrating fact of life. It’s not that the media is always wrong. (The better stories are only slightly wrong**.) It’s not even that the truth falls somewhere between the different versions. It’s more about the story that falls around and outside the part that gets reported.
My Notorious Neighbor has been charged with loathsome things, of course, but he’s actually not in jail for those (those charges were dismissed, reduced, settled out of court, or supposed to be until NN’s mouth made life very difficult for himself). He’s in jail because he’s arrogant**, excitable, loudspoken, gets manic at times, says what’s on his mind the moment it crosses his mind before it occurs to him that perhaps a mental filter can be a good thing. He got way too comfortable behind his army of lawyers. He can be a lot of fun to be around — he’s unpredictable and funny, always at the center of something, gregarious and generous and out for a good time, wants everybody around him to have a good time, is quick to call out anybody he thinks is being pretentious. I rarely saw him sitting, at least for long — he was always standing, moving, his own personal whirlwind. He likes to joke around and grab people and horseplay. One night I was bantering with him in the street — we were part of a group coming back from a club — and giving him a hard time about something. He came at me and grabbed my arm and did a self-defense move I recognized from my own tae kwon do years.*** Horseplay. I’m tall, athletic and physical and horseplayed back with him, found it funny. (We were not completely sober.) And I wouldn’t have thought anything about it…except I also recognized the arm thing from a newspaper article that dealt severe damage to his already bad reputation (the online link made the email rounds of pretty much everybody we knew who knew him and came up in conversation, sometimes by NN himself, for months afterwards). He did that exact same action to the reporter who interviewed him. She described the scene and there’s nothing in it — at least that I remember — to indicate that NN wasn’t just being that hyped-up, manic, obnoxious version of himself, only this time in the most inappropriate of circumstances. But she took that behavior and cast it very differently. You can’t really blame her. You read that article and think, My God, is he insane?, especially if you don’t know him, but also if you do. I don’t think he’s stupid (I think the opposite) and I don’t think he’s crazy — I think, among other things, that he’s hyperactive at times and has an issue with impulse control. This is not working well for him.
He also has the very alpha-male tendency of single-mindedly pursuing the thing that he wants. (My husband is the same way. I said no to him for months before I went out on a date with him, and then years before I became involved in a full-blown relationship with him, and now I am the mother of his multiple sons.) He will respect — at least so far as I can tell — a denial that is equally single-minded, but some people might find it easier just to give in to him — and then resent him for it afterwards. I’ll be frank: I do like the guy, but I wouldn’t want any hot daughter of mine to go out with him, at least not until she knew her own mind and was very sure and confident in herself. And this is likely the last I’ll write about him for a while.
Not so long ago, I told my friend S., who knew NN before I did, that I wanted to base a character on NN — take this kind of person and see what could transform him, how he could be transformed. S said, “But do you think [NN] can honestly be redeemed?” I said, well, that’s kind of a moot point, since this is fiction and therefore anything is possible.
* A recent piece in The Economist described my husband as a ‘playboy’ and ‘space cowboy’ (when people complimented him on the article, he said, “Thanks, but you know I’m not nearly that cool”) and supported this image through emphasizing a certain car he has, without mentioning that he rarely drives the damn thing and is in the process of selling it because he no longer considers it compatible with his life. And a recent article in Vanity Fair gets a fact so wrong in the very first, large-printed lines that I’ve been too self-conscious to point out the article to people who didn’t know about it already (and I realize of course that I’m now doing just that, but you get what I mean). It’s too obnoxious a subject to bother correcting, but it’s also completely not true.
**For example, today I read a news clip about NN that said he was “flying to [the city/state where he had been ordered to turn himself into jail] from his California home” when he was arrested. He was not flying out from his California home. He was most likely not flying out from California, period.
***This, however, is not an uncommon trait among the people I know, or amid the general population of westside LA.
**** Late teens, early twenties, developed a knee problem, quit not long after I got my black belt