12 Years: A Hollywood Ending


ife has a certain quality or property quite inimical to fiction. It is shapeless, it does not point to and gather round anything, it does not cohere. Artistically, it’s dead. Life’s dead.


Only artistically that is. In down-to-earth realist and material terms, of course, life is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and has everything to be said for it. But then life ends, while art persists for at least a little while longer.—Martin Amis, Inside Story, page xix

The annual end of June and start of July is a calendrical territory laden for me with reflective moods and a bit of wonder at how I am still here at all. Twelve years ago at this time, one chapter in my life concluded and the next one opened, except I was unaware of this on July 15, 2010.

I was in the shapelessness of my life, of life itself, and whatever narrative powers I may have summoned to give it shape had long been dormant. I drank on July 15 and I did not drink on July 16. In my memory of this moment, this may as well be represented with the sound of a door slammed shut—or slammed open, to be more correct, as life, my life, has opened with possibilities ever since—but in the experience of the moment, there was no difference between the two days.

My last drinks were of the quietly desperate sort: Because I was unemployed and had no money to my name, I had no full bottles of alcohol in the room I rented back then. I also did not have any food. The evening of July 15 was spent in a dig through a garbage bag of “empties” in the hope that a shot glass or two might be filled with the drips and drops that empties sometimes yield. Like water from a sponge that isn’t a sponge at all.
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Happy Birthday, Michelle!

My earliest memory happens to be the moment I met my baby sister, Michelle. As today is her 51st birthday, that means I have fifty-one years of conscious (and semi-conscious) memories as of today or the next few days.

The most important part of all the above is this: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MICHELLE!
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Michael Lang and Small-Town Fame

So far in my employment history I have had four salaried jobs. Three were the best-paying ones, and at least one of these is the reason my current income, monthly SSD, is as not-horrifyingly tiny as it could be.

My first high-salaried job was in 1997-’98 with a publisher based in Woodstock, NY. Now, for someone like me, a high salary at the time meant more than $30,000 a year. (Sad to say, this amount would still be a high salary for me.) Thus, when I received my first paycheck at this publisher, I “felt wealthy” for perhaps the first and only time in my life.

I lived nowhere near Woodstock, though, so it seemed to me that I needed to open a bank account near where I thought most of my weekday life would be spent. Off I marched at lunchtime to a local bank with a paycheck that felt like it made my wallet bulge. At this point in my life, I think my one previous experience with a new bank account was in elementary school, and in that “bank,” quarters were the largest denomination accepted for deposits.

I explained my plight to a teller and I was directed to a seat, which was another novelty: I’d never sat in bank before. Please understand, in 1997 I was 29, so my naïveté was bizarre and somewhat hard-won.

I was one customer behind someone else who needed to open a bank account that day, so we were seated very close to one another at the desk of the accounts manager who could help us. That someone else was Michael Lang.
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