Barry 12/09/20

I’m thinking about my recent exit from social media. I ended my Twitter run with a quote tweet of the author Tod Goldberg. He made some lame, easy Trump joke couched in the amazeballs Wendig-style of “something made of bees” that I despise so much. If this sounds like a schizophrenic typing at the moment, you’re not far off.

Twitter is a disease.

I thought about the time that I did a panel at a writing convention with Tod’s brother, Lee. We were up on a dais, talking to a room of mostly septuagenarian mystery fans. Me there to promote my burgeoning crime press.

I was there with my friends Johnny Shaw and Barry Graham. I wonder how Barry is doing these days.

That day created a schism in our relationship. See, I had forwarded the e-mail that the moderator of the panel had sent to the myself and the other panelists. In it, he said that he wanted to keep the panel simple, because the audience would be too stupid to get anything outside of very basic shit.

I showed that to Barry, and he flipped. Barry’s a Buddhist monk, crime writer, and Scottish psychopath, and when I moved to Portland he became one of my very best friends. An absolute iconoclast, Barry had alienated nearly everyone in the crime writing scene, which generally looks down on people who call you on your shit.

Barry also has a somewhat sordid history with his various ventures into creating monasteries in the US. He’s got, shall we say, negative reviews. I still love him.

He wanted to stand up in the middle of the presentation and read the e-mail back to the moderator. I became very nervous about this. I told him that I would prefer that he didn’t do that. He said “okay.”

But that wasn’t the end of it. In Barry’s eyes, I was compromised from that day on. Our conversations and meetups for beer continued apace, but something had shifted. Finally, one day we got into an argument about that day. I said, “I didn’t want to compromise my career.” Barry said, incredulously, “Your career? You were scared about what these fucking people thought of you because of your career?”

I felt a great shame when he said those words back to me. He went on: “I think that you’re a coward. I think that you don’t believe anything that you claim to.”

There was booze involved, sure. But he was getting to something.

Do I actually believe in anything? Am I just a coward? I poke at these structures of power, these things that I find worthy of fucking with. Do I believe it, though? Will I take that extra step?

I think about this often.