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Albino (part one)

I began writing Albino two million years ago. I had an editor then, who lived a few blocks away. We would meet for breakfast on Avenue A, quietly forking into home fries as we discussed the structure of the story - the economy of objects. A dollar bill was not just a dollar bill in this story, it was connected to thought and action, to music and transformation. This was the story that told me there was a whole book to dig into, mining for diamonds in the backwaters of America, turning over the ugliest rocks to better understand relationships between fathers and sons.

Last week, I stumbled across a call for submissions - not for a journal, but for a podcast where the work of new writers was read aloud. I thought back to a reading I had done of just the first few pages of Albino - a messy hero's journey,  a young man and a guitar, a man with loss and regret, a man that still had something to lose. That reading went well, enough that I felt a strange elation stepping off the stage i…

oh banjola (goodnight 2017)




There is no shortage of banjo jokes. I never wanted to own one, but the banjola is another story. Made  entirely of wood, it has nylon strings (not steel, like a banjo) and with a great deal of a luck it would be a Pollman, which were made over 100 years ago. If you have ever heard 16 Horsepower, you would know why I want one so desperately. 

I signed up for alerts. I checked eBay every day. A few months later, one surfaced - well refurbished, from 1897. Can you imagine having an instrument that old in your living room? What songs would leap from such an old soul? What nicks and gouges, what wounds does it bear? My mind grew swollen with these thoughts as I bid, and raised my bid and then won a Pollman banjola over a week ago. It would take a month to ship to Moscow, where any and every package can be stopped and lost and returned without explanation. I held faith that it would arrive, safe and ready to play. 

The shipping notices arrived, saying "your package is now at the Global Shipping Center". I imagined it there, a box bursting with potential, with some sort of divine Christmas spirit guiding it across the ocean.  And then a new message came. The box was oversized. My payment had already been refunded by some computer system. The banjola was going back to the seller. I contacted him frantically on Christmas Eve. He answered after some time, and agreed to sell it to me outright. I breathed deeply, sipping cold wine at the dinner table, a great satisfaction rolling around me. The banjola would be here soon I thought, as I rested my head on the pillow. 

Then a new message from the seller. Ebay was not sending it back to him. They simply said they would resell it themselves. They paid him for it. End of story. It was all unheard of. So cruel and random, so rare. If I lived in the states I would have this instrument already. My cheeks flush red, embarrassed. Why do I need this old handful of wood and glue so much? A voice whispers in my ear, telling me I am being foolish. Maybe it is just the wish to buy something, and get it. Maybe this is not about exotic banjolas. Maybe this is about the ugly reality of life in Russia, and wanting something that is not there. 

The year of years ends with a fresh cut, and no apology. My only action is to call eBay and beg them, ship the banjola somewhere in the states and wait until I am back to take it. Russia surrounds itself with walls, to prevent anything from passing the borders untaxed. More than a book, or a document - how this gets through is a miracle. You must become your own postman, or postwoman to solve this. 

Goodnight 2017. 



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