What I Want For My Birthday…

Thursday will mark my 35th birthday. So now I can officially run for president! Yay! *Grin.* “I, Derek Eugene McFadden, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute…”

Everyone’s been asking me what I want for said birthday. So I thought I’d make a list. If you can make any of this happen, dear reader, whoever you are, that would be cool, and I would be forever grateful.

I would like:

-Scientists around the world to agree almost unanimously that climate change is human-made, so that we may finally go about doing something to fix it. (Wait, hasn’t that happened already? Oh, right, not the last part. The most important part.)

-For healthcare to forever and always cover those with pre-existing conditions, as I am, put bluntly, a walking pre-existing condition, and I kind of enjoy living a lot more than I’d enjoy not living. I speak for my fellow pre-existing conditioners in this belief. I was unable, after much reaearch, to find any pre-existing shampoos. *I am allowed one bad pun per blog. *

-All of my family to be happy and healthy and to be living the lives they always dreamed. That sounds simple. It. Is. Not.

-A new computer. Mine’s from 2009. It’s time for an upgrade. Just sayin’.

-To help the agent for whom I intern find that next great novel or memoir. That next great book everyone will be talking about tomorrow. And to have the author of that book know that, as far as editing and grammar and the like goes, I’ve got their back.

-To get to pet my loving Best Dog Ever again. I miss you, Scoot!

-For my Seattle Mariners to actually be relevant in the baseball world again. I don’t ask for much. I really don’t, though I fear this may be a bit too much.

-For one more phone call each with my Papa Dick and my Grandma Illene. So I can tell him about my book. He was always my first reader when I was a kid. If he thought it was good, I knew a story was good. And I can tell Grandma that it looks like her favorite show, American Idol, is on its way back! Seacrest… in? And she can tell me how she’s baking cookies in Heaven, and God Himself is a fan!

-Another trip to Disneyland. There can never be enough time spent in the Magic Kingdom. I love how invigorated I get when I walk in there. How creative I feel. How truly magical it is. Mr. Disney, I bow to you, sir. The place you dreamed of in the early 1950s is now the place of childhood joy and adult nostalgia and remembrance of childhood joy. And adult joy, too. Who are we kidding? *Grin.*

-But if there’s one thing I would love to have for my birthday, one thing above all others, it is this: My book, understood and loved by an agent and, later, a publisher in the same way that I love and understand it. They’ll want to collaborate with me on its words, its impact, its meaning. They’ll dream of possible covers the way I do. They’ll imagine that day when I’ll walk into Powell’s for the first time and… believe it or not… there’s my book, the hardcover, its dust-jacket gleaming in the mid-day light.

I will finally have the team I’ve always wanted behind my book!

Am I asking for too much? I think not. I put in the work. I am learning the business more and more each day. I try to be, for any author I work with–as an extension of both the agent I represent and myself–an integral part of the team behind the great art I believe in and a part of the team I imagine every author wishes to have behind them!

Open Letter To A Safeco Field Usher

This was a busy weekend for me. Attend the Mariners home opener on Friday. Hang with my mom and a couple of my siblings Saturday. Then hang with Mom back at the ballpark Sunday to see King Felix Hernandez make his first home start of 2016.

I go to a fair amount of games. This means that I–and the person I’m traveling with; on Friday my uncle, on Sunday my mom–are always well prepared. We bring a clear bag for easy searches upon entry into the park. In the bag is my binoculars and radio (important to me since I’m legally blind, and these implements greatly enhance my enjoyment of the game). Sometimes, you might be able to find a ticket or two to an older game loitering in the bottom of my bag, because I’ve forgotten, or haven’t had time, to toss the papers in my recycle bin.

Sunday I got tickets in section 147, row 10. Who knew my section marked the boundary line of the newly expanded King’s Court on days when King Felix starts? I sure didn’t. This seat location entitled me and my mom both to our own “King’s court” shirt and “K-cards” to wave like crazy people whenever Felix got to two strikes on a hitter. Mom was told to go to the team-store, take her ticket with her, and she would receive our merch.

So she did that.

While she was gone, a couple people came by and said I was in their seat. Now all of our stuff (my bag, my mom’s purse) were underneath the seats we had been occupying. I was sure Mom had simply made a mistake, and I told them once she came back and I could check the ticket for our exact seats, I would move. The people were fine with this. “We’ll go get something to eat,” they said.

The usher–the same woman who, not five minutes earlier, told my mom to go up and get the shirts, acted like she was about to blow a gasket. “You have to move! These aren’t your seats!” She then picked up my clear bag, saw the tickets for opening day that I hadn’t removed from the bag (I sat on the 200 level Friday night) and pointed out to one of her cohorts, “These tickets aren’t even on this level!”

“If you’ll give me a second to explain-” I tried.

“You need to move!”

“I get it,” I said. “My mom is-”

“Where is your mom?”

“She’s up in the team store, where you told her to go, getting our stuff.”

“Oh… and it’s probably busy in there, isn’t it?” she guessed.

“Probably,” I agreed.

Just then, a very nice woman came up to me, held out her hand and said, “I hear you might be moving down the row. My name is Cindy.”

I introduced myself and told Cindy I’d be down the row just as soon as my mom came back, and it was nice to meet her. The overzealous usher said, “What’s going on now? What’s going on?”

I felt like John Goodman in The Big Lebowski. I wanted to tell that woman to: “Shut the F**ck up, Donny!”

If the Safeco Field seating host (that’s a nicer title than I’d give this particular woman)  truly has the goal of making the Mariner experience the best in baseball, as the team claims, perhaps they could learn to respect the fans who occupy the park in which they make a wage and treat them like guests rather than unwanted trespassers.

It’s just a thought.

 

 

 

 

Internships And Spring Training Trips

Life has a way of changing, switching things up, and putting you right where you’re supposed to be.

The thing is, it does so with such a measured pace–sometimes that pace can still seem something akin to slow even when we’re living in a world that demands everything happen fast–that we might not even notice some of the changes it brings. Yet others are obvious, maybe even painful.

I’ve always been a writer. Truthfully, when I first begin dating a woman, my writing plus my humor are my secret weapons. I think they admire my forging on through life despite my cerebral palsy and eyesight that might not make Mr. Magoo jealous. But I have yet to find the one person out there who says, “I choose you. Above all others, and in spite of–or maybe partially because of–your struggles and the way in which you handle them, I choose you.”

Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads that you can only define as a crossroads looking back, after the fact?

I found myself at one of these crossroads recently. (It made me think of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, until I read a little deeper and realized that poem is not about what most of us think it’s about.) When my recent relationship of two years ended, I spent a while after the initial shock wondering what it had all been for. (Then I wondered, just now, why I felt the need to end a sentence with a preposition? My third-grade teacher is probably turning in her grave.) We had shared so much, this woman and me, yet I had not been enough. My writing, my humor, my sarcasm, the last of these a quality that feels built-in to me but was honed by my loving grandfather (a quality I would not trade for a chance to write a best-selling novel, or a poetry collection that gleams with something critics call brilliance, because doing so would mean having to forfeit the best things in my life; the joy of laughing even when laughing seems impossible and the love of a man who taught me the sentimentality that, certainly in part, anyway, defines me.). Those things, as much as I appreciate them, they had not been enough to keep a relationship I treasured afloat.

My relationship was a sinking ship taking on water before I ever realized I should be unhappy in it.

The contentedness I so rarely feel in matters of the heart that was my companion then was also the thing that blinded me to what was really happening, the way life was changing, switching things up without my knowledge or, more importantly, my approval.

A writer has control. His universe is what he makes it. What he writes it.

A man with cerebral palsy must give up control before he ever knows he lost it. “I’m a go-with-the-flow kinda guy,” I often say. Because that is who I am, but also because I don’t really have a choice.

I love words, and what they can do to people who read them, but I also love the control they give me. “Shape this world,” they say. “Make it what you will. Make it a world with great castles, or one with peasants living in tiny hovels.”

I know how to write. What I didn’t really know–until life let me know it–was how my ability to write could actually teach me about the business of writing.

The business of writing. To a writer, for whom telling stories is the ultimate escape and/or communication tool (Sometimes, a writer’s not saying, “Come with me into a magical land.” Sometimes they’re saying, “If you take the time to learn a little something about my life, it just might teach you about yours.”), thinking of writing as a business is not easy. But a business it is.

For me, loving the business of writing all began with TV. That’s right, that box that used to be square and then flattened out and lost its boxineess. Every May, the networks (whose relevance we can debate, if you’d like, though not today) hold what they call the “Up-fronts.”. They have new shows coming next September, and they want to get their friends the advertisers excited. They couldn’t be higher on their shows then. The network presidents will say things like, “This is the greatest show since Breaking bad.” (If you hear that, by the way, run the other way. Nothing will ever compare to Breaking Bad, and if a network tells you they have “the next Breaking Bad” they are severely over-reaching and should be punished with low ratings.)

Low ratings, of course, lead to cancellations. Shows that networks crowed about–that viewers knew to be crap–removed from eyeshot forever.

Books–and the business of books and writing–work a bit differently, yet there are similarities. An agent loves a story or a project. The agent is essentially a producer, whose job it is to then bring their new love and its author to an editor at a publishing house. (The publisher is the network.) If the publisher can be convinced, the book will see th light of day and the eyes of readers.

But before this can happen, an agent must read many stories to find those that they feel comfortable sharing with their publishing colleagues. And they might use a second reader to help in this endeavor.

That’s part of what I’m now doing as an internship, an opportunity that came to me through my father, an opportunity I never thought I’d have. I love forecasting which new network shows are doomed to fail, and I love even more reading stories and helping to determine their viability. Doing so makes me a better writer, because I can spot the “what-not-to-dos” in writing, and sometimes in my own writing.

This position is new, but I hit the ground running, and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done so far. There isn’t anything better than feeling productive and appreciated. The agent I’m interning for (for whom I’m interning, my inner-editor is screaming) went on vacation recently, and she asked me if I wanted to take a vacation of my own while she was out. I don’t usually take vacations, but March is a big month, and my dad, my uncle, my second cousin, and I have been planning a trip to Seattle Mariner spring training for months, so while I didn’t take my vacation when she took hers–I kept reading, and I actually read something I love–I would take my vacation a week or so later. Our crew would drive to Arizona to watch baseball, do some casinoing, and revel in In N Out burgerness.

And–Dad and I are both writers, remember?–we’d tell stories on the road, too.

Stories of Papa, the man who gave me my sarcasm. Who showed me that my cerebral palsy only limited me if that’s what I wanted it to do. Who loved my writing–and showed me where I could make it better–before I ever knew people did that for a living. He certainly didn’t. He simply liked to read stories, and he loved and encouraged his grandson.

I was twenty when he passed. A week shy of my twenty-first birthday, actually.

My second cousin knew Papa in the abstract way that really young people know really old people. (My brother once wrote on the white-board in his hospital room, “Papa smells old.” He got a kick outa that.) The wonderful thing about that is that I got to tell my cousin just how much Papa loved him, how overjoyed he was that this new person would share his name, how Papa delighted when he would come over in the morning asking for “Hot Chocate milk”.

And, while on this trip, we made our own new stories. Some of which almost defy explanation unless you were there in the car with us, driving the twenty hours from Arizona all the way to the Oregon border. (Just an observation. Between Vegas and Reno, there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING.)

On this trip–this shared experience–I found in my cousin one of the best friends I kinda never knew I had. I had watched him when he was very young, but now he’s about to graduate high school, he’s a smart guy, and we make each other laugh. And it’s nice to meet someone whose first question isn’t, “Why do you walk like that?” I actually really liked answering his questions. One of them was something along the lines of, What was Papa like? I’ll answer that question any day, any time, because he was the person I wish I could be.

So, in the space of four months, I’ve found something I love to do–that’s reawakened my enjoyment of words and writing–and in the space of a week, I was re-acquainted with family and found a pretty great friend. And it all happened because life has a way of changing, switching things up, and putting you right where you’re supposed to be.

 

 

 

Baseball With My Best Friend!

Everyone needs a best friend. Think back on your own childhood a moment. Who was the one person you could turn to, outside of your parents, when you needed advice, and if they said you were right, you knew you were right? (By the same token, if they said you were wrong, you knew you’d been somehow mistaken.)
I met my best friend when we were both eight years old. Unlike the other kids, he didn’t bully me. He didn’t find joy in ridicule. He was interested in what cerebral palsy was, what it meant for me, how it made me different (not in the “He’s different!” sense, but what talents it might have unknowingly conferred upon me.) In fact, when need be, he stood up for me against the other kids, the bullies, because if he said I was cool, they weren’t going to argue the point. They would leave me alone… at least for a little while, until some time when he wasn’t looking and they could get away with tripping me in a hallway at school, or saying very slowly, “Are. You. Retarded. Or. Something?” Each word was a sentence, and they knew this got to me. They liked to watch my face redden.
“They don’t know how to deal with anyone who isn’t exactly like then,” Dad said. I kind of ignored this thought. Until the next day at school, when my best friend, Luke, said essentially the same thing.
“Well, how is that my fault?”
“It’s not. If it makes you feel any better, my parents really like you.”
It did. As a kid (believe it or not, and Luke has confirmed this) I was opinionated, outspoken, laughed loud, sometimes too loud (still do), I loved to write, and, as I’ve always been, I was then quite loyal. Luke’s parents didn’t mind any of these characteristics. They went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to making me comfortable around them and in their home. For example, Luke’s mom would cut my food when we were eating together, be it in their kitchen or at a fine-dining place. I suppose I could have done this myself, but it would have taken seventeen hours and an answered appeal for clemency from my palsy.
Something else Luke did for me, with which his parents both assisted greatly, was to show a guy with cerebral palsy, who would never play a minute of competitive sports, how to absolutely love sports. How to live and die with a team. How to put your whole heart into a franchise, or a season, or a single down, or a single pitch.
We were especially fond of baseball. It took me what felt like forever to learn the game. I would ask stupid question with answers so simple they should never have left my mouth, but each time I had a question Luke or his mom would patiently reply, and over time my knowledge of the game steadily increased (Sure, we’ve always been fans of the Seattle Mariners, and that’s tough, because there isn’t a strong tradition of winning that follows the club around. There is, however, a strong tradition of: “How will we blow it this year?” It must be like watching the Mets, but at least with the Mets their fans can say, “Remember those world series we won?”).
Today is something of a special day. Hence the subject of this post. I’m headed to a baseball game with Luke (our second this year, as we attended opening day; oh, to be 1 and 0 again instead of the Mariners’ current abysmal record, which is something like Not Many Wins–A Whole Lot More Losses.). Also attending the game, Luke’s girlfriend; I am meeting her for the first time ever, and I’m excited, because if Luke approves of her, she must be a pretty cool person. And my girlfriend, who learned at our last baseball game how to “score” a game and is definitely a cool person! I’ll report back and let you guys know if anything really awesome happens at the game today. As they say on TV news promos, “More at 11.”
For now, I hope you guys have a great weekend, and I’ll see you here again very soon.