Finally Rowing for Real

In which Citizen Jim does not arrive—but a letter from him does! A long, angry, accusatory letter! Surprise!

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Because I fell asleep at around 8 o’clock the night before, I woke up at 2:30 the next morning feeling as if I’d overslept. After half an hour of trying to go back to sleep with no success, I decided to get out of bed and see what I could do with myself until 5:00, when my alarm would go off.

Decades earlier night time had always been my “right time” (though not for Michelob beer, or for listening to Ray Charles). Mostly, my “right time” was also my “write time,” and between the ages of 18 and 35 I got a lot of words committed to paper between the hours of midnight and six AM. That was all ruined by a long-term relationship that taught (and by “taught,” I mean “forced”) me to put myself on a more practical sleep schedule.

Make no mistake: my art has suffered ever since.

It didn’t take long to learn that the only thing I could do at 2:30 in the morning was fall into a YouTube wormhole, which I promptly did. This was a huge mistake, and for many reasons (none of which I wish to disclose here).

When I realized it was Friday, and that the weekend lay ahead, I panicked. This panic led me to start trying to contact Citizen Jim, who is my best friend and the person I love most in the world.

After phoning him repeatedly and leaving multiple voice messages with no success, I tried texting him and emailing him, also to no avail. In a last-ditch effort to reach Citizen Jim, I turned to Twitter and Instagram and attempted to proverbially “slide into” his so-called “DMs.”

At 4:30 am, I heard a knock on the door and rejoiced: I knew it had to be Citizen Jim, and I was so relieved that he was finally responding to my desperation.

The main reason I was relieved? Because when I couldn’t get a response from Citizen Jim, I started to think that he might be rotting away in a jail cell. He seemed to have denounced the Raging Orange Cheetoh long before the end of 45’s presidential term. But I can’t ever really be sure what Citizen Jim might get up to if true, ceaseless boredom begins to set in.

So. Yes. I was afraid he’d joined insurrectionists who tried to take over the US Capitol on January 6.

Unfortunately, when I opened the door it was not Citizen Jim who stood there. It was a young man in a DHL uniform. “I need you to sign for this package,” he said.

I did as I was asked, then tore open the envelope handed to me as the DHL courier got back into his van and peeled away. Inside was a thick stack of paper covered with a barely legible scrawl that appeared to have been made with a purple Sharpie. (He didn’t even try to make it neat).

It was a letter from Citizen Jim—hopefully a letter that would explain why he wasn’t responding to my manic attempts to contact him.

Stimpy! I don’t know what the hell you want, but you’d better stop calling, texting, emailing, and trying to contact me with unsolicited messages on social media. There is a constitutional crisis going on in the country right now. I can’t imagine that anything you think is important could be more consequential than what is happening in Washington, D.C. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, congress is deciding the fate of our republic and the future of our democracy.

Shut up, the letter continued. A democracy and a republic are NOT ‘the same thing!’ But I doubt I have the time it would take to make you understand this, given how under-developed your little raisin brain is. To cut a long story short (no, I’m not trying to change the subject to Spandau Ballet, who are maybe one of the worst bands to ever to appear during the New Romantic era, and definitely the worst band to ever write their biggest hit song about Clair Grogan of Altered Images): whatever it is you need, don’t look to me for help.

No ma’am! Not after all this time between Citizen Jim stories! Not after everything I know you’ve been up to that you didn’t see fit to document via fiction slathered with farce, baked in a 350-degree oven of slapstick, and garnished with bathos! Ha! After keeping me out of the loop for so long, I can’t believe you thought you could get away with asking me for ANYTHING!

Wow. This wasn’t what I was expecting at all when I started reading Citizen Jim’s letter. I thought he was going to apologize for not being able to see me face to face. I thought he was sorry that he hadn’t come through for me in this one instance when I actually needed him to visit me uninvited, undesired, and unable to read my body language while it shouted, “Please leave. Now!”

How could I be upset with him? It’s not like he knew that I was buying a rowing machine from my friend Candaleeza Pryopalooza, or that I’d promised to write her a Citizen Jim story if she would deliver it to my house over the weekend.

But this wasn’t solving my problem. What if I didn’t have a Citizen Jim story to barter with when my rowing machine was delivered? Would Candaleeza decide that the deal was off? Would it be possible to trade something else—and I was open to practically ANYTHING else—instead of a Citizen Jim story? Or would I remain doomed to sit on the edge of a chair and pretend to pull the oars of a non-existent boat like I’d already been doing for the last few months? If so, why had I wasted all that time compiling a whole Spotify playlist I called “Finally Rowing for Real”?

Sadly, I hadn’t finished reading Citizen Jim’s letter when I was overtaken by this feeling of futility. I picked up reading where I left off.

I know you think I’m being harsh and vindictive and completely lacking in human sympathy and empathy by not bending to your will. You might even think it’s time I bent to your will after all these years of bending you to mine. You would be wrong about all of this, though. Yes, you would be wrong, and I would be right, just like always. And just like always, you probably can’t accept this, but I no longer care. Especially since you haven’t even asked me to be on your stupid podcast! Nor have you tried to finagle a way for me to get vaccinated against the Covid like you are, now! And you certainly haven’t consulted with me about buying this rowing machine from your friend who claims to be a fan of your pathetic Citizen Jim stories.

When you consider all this, how can you call yourself my friend? Also, how can you not know that anyone who says they like these stories is just lying to you for their own immediate or eventual gain?

In closing, my answer to your never-asked request is no. No, I will not come to visit you just to give you fodder for another Citizen Jim story. What would be in it for me? We both know the answer: nothing.

When you figure out how to be a true friend, and not just a false friend who is always wanting something from generous and giving people like me, let me know. And then we’ll talk. But when I feel like it! Not you! Me!

I regretted tearing the letter into tiny pieces and throwing it in the trash as soon as I heard Citizen Jim banging on the door and yelling, “If I come in there and find out you haven’t read that letter I wrote I’ll give you another piece of my mind! The part of my mind that has a head-bashing brick with your name on it!” Ah! That was more like it!