Well, first of all, very few people are using the Question Bucket properly. The preferred method for asking Future Tom questions is to become enebriated and then call my phone. Staggering up to me and slurring your questions at me is also right up there, and Facebook messaging is getting fairly common, too. If you’re my wife, what you do, instead of using the electronic Bucket, is you just raise your head from whatever you’re doing and you sort of shout the question at the air, like I’m the computer on the Enterprise, whether I’m in the room or not.
That’s no problem. The Question Bucket at firstname.lastname@example.org is there for your convenience, but it’s not a TP report. I don’t need to get you a copy of that memo or anything. I can take any question you ask via any of the above means, and then transcribe the question, and drop it in the Question Bucket. Then what I do is pace around for a minute, and take the question back out of the Question Bucket – that makes me feel pretty good, taking the questions out of the Bucket. And also, when I write about the questions, I can still call it The Future Tom Question Bucket, which I also appear to enjoy.
Yesterday as you may have noticed, took quite a bit out of me, so this is a good time to answer questions from the Bucket. Nobody has ever said or emailed the phrase “Dear Future Tom” to me but I’m adding that so it seems like I’m really some kind of advice columnist or psychic astrologer or something.
Q: Dear Future Tom – How much of these stories are true?
A: Well, if I were publishing a book called The Curse of Future Tom – which is looks like I probably will, after Half Crazy comes out, then I would probably put it under fiction. I feel perfectly free to be completely fictional anytime I feel like it, and if for instance, I’m telling a true story, and I wish Abraham Lincoln was there, I just stick him in there, the hell with it.
But many of the stories are completely true, more like memoirs. Yesterday, for instance, Night Side – anyone who knows me knows that’s not fiction.
Others are more blurry. Some stories are based on true stories, but I had to fictionalize aspects of them so you didn’t blast your face against your keyboard out of sheer boredom. Frequently, the story itself is true, but I don’t have the kind of memory where I can transcribe conversations word-for-word, and even if I did, trying to read dialogue that way would be very unpleasant for you. I don’t want you to hurt your face or feel otherwise unpleasant, so I write the dialogue like I’m writing fiction.
Also, I frequently change things I said – like you know how someone says something to you, and then an hour later, you think, man I know what I should have said? Well, I can just go back there and say it, and then make the person I was talking to look like a total jerk, and just change his or her name or leave out the last name, so they can’t freak out. This sort of thing is why I’d stick the book in fiction.
But I definitely don’t want you to think I’m pulling the personal stuff right out of my butt. I’m being much more frank and honest about the personal stories than I ever imagined. And by and large, people seem to like that. Eventually, I’ll try to sort these things into memoir, fiction, etc.
But really, I’m just writing. I’m trying to be cautious about people’s feelings, trying to be tasteful about what to reveal, trying to be respectful, and that’s another reason to put it in fiction, even though so much of it is true. It’s just nicer, thinking of it as fiction. But the old cliché goes like this: fiction is truth wrapped in lies. There’s definitely truth – or there’s meant to be – in everything I’m putting down here.
Sometimes there’s more of it than others.
Q: Dear Future Tom – How do you explain the alarming amount of drinking and bar stories?
A: That’s usually when the funny stuff happens, frankly. I could tell stories about me sitting around watching Doctor Who or clipping my toenails or doing my taxes, stone sober, but I don’t think that would be very entertaining.
Also, my dad has owned bars since I was a kid. And back in the late seventies, early eighties, it was perfectly normal to take your kid to a bar, give him a roll of quarters. In the first grade, I was one of four people at the Riverfront Saloon to break a million points on the pinball machine. Me, and three bikers. They kept a milk crate under the machine, for me to slide out and stand on.
First grade, had my name etched on a plaque on the wall there.
A little bit alarming to many, I’m sure, but that’s the answer. I was raised in bars, practically, and then when I “grew up” I worked in them.
The other way I would explain it is, I drink a lot of beer, and bars are where they sell it.
Q: Dear Future Tom – Thanks for the emotional beatdown the other day, with your haunted childhood and everything. That’s about all I needed on a Friday afternoon.
A: That’s not really a question, but you’re welcome.
Q: Dear Future Tom – Who is Greeno?
A: Damn it, I could have sworn we’ve been over this. Greeno is a real dude, and he’s also a fictional amalgam, and in these stories, when you see him, he’s either really himself, or he’s me with Greeno’s name, or he’s somebody completely fictional I decided to call Greeno. The real guy – I don’t call him Greeno, but I think I might start – is extremely anti-social, a gun nut shut-in who screams at squirrels. I wouldn’t bother him or ask about him anymore, if I were you. And anyway, when he’s the real guy in a story, I tend to still call him Greeno, even though I haven’t technically started doing that for real.
It’s just going to be absolutely crucial that you keep all that straight, and you’re not going to get any more help from me – I’m tired.
Q: Dear Future Tom – Can you tell who is reading your blog?
A: No, I can tell how many people are viewing each story, but not which individual people are doing so.
Q: Dear Future Tom – Did your wife like the one on Mother’s Day?
A: You bet your ass she did. Everybody’s wife liked the one on Mother’s Day – sorry about that fellas. Anyway, I’m pretty sure she’s over it now.
Q: Dear Future Tom – If Night Side was about your childhood tragedy, then what was your childhood triumph?
A: See, here’s a really good question that’s not funny at all – I didn’t know where to put it, since pretty much everyone else was just dropping turds in Question Bucket. But that’s a real question I got, and it’s really made me think. I don’t know.
I do know that I am really not looking for sympathy when I say that. When my friend asked me and I wracked my brain, realized I didn’t have an answer, it was a very strange moment. Because I’m not crazy about the way people tend to capitalize on their tragedies, wear them around on their sleeves.
I wrote that story down because I needed to. I truly hope I didn’t offend anybody, or rip open any old wounds. I wrote it because a big part of this, and writing in general, is therapy. You guys are like an army of shrinks, except you’re free.
And my friend in particular, with his childhood triumph question. It’s something I’ll think about. Does anyone have a childhood triumph, really? I’m not being rhetorical, there’s a comment box down there – I’d love to hear anyones’s.
Does a touchdown in the championship game count? Getting into college? I’m really not sure, but I find the question interesting. Most of us can probably name our childhood tragedies. But I think most of my triumphs came when I was an adult.
You can drop an answer in the box down there, or email it anonymously to the Question Bucket, or you can just go ahead and skedaddle, thinking, way to phone it in, Tom. I’m dead serious when I tell you, I’m going up to watch Doctor Who.