Wednesday, April 20, 2011

#293 Brian Allen Carr: The Best Things Are Happening Now

Brian Allen Carr was born in Austin, TX in 1979. His father was a preacher, his mother a nurse. His childhood was pretty good except that there was often tension in the house and usually yelling. It was weird having an angry father who would preach peace and love in public, but screamed and broke furniture at home. Brian lost a certain respect for authority figures, but his father was always getting bigger churches so the family moved around a lot—different cities in Texas. Brian wasn’t a big fan of school, but he liked the library and skipped classes so he could read books there. He was a terrible student, always trying to drop out of high school, but his mother wouldn't let him. Eventually, Brian graduated high school and his father got fired from the church. After that, Brian went to Austin Community College for a few years, taking classes here and there. He started writing for a magazine called Salt For Slugs and decided to get a degree in journalism. When Brian was 21, his older brother died, which was terrible. They were pretty close. His brother had gone missing, then his car was found on fire and somebody wasn’t alive inside it. They had to match the teeth and then they cremated the rest of him. After that, Brian got really good at school for a few semesters. Then he moved to a new school and got really bad at caring about anything. Brian was in a band for a while and then culinary school in Vermont for a while. During that time, Brian got married for the first time. It was a good marriage, but it wasn’t a life-long thing. They are still friends and they high-fived each other when they signed their divorce papers. Brian only has one kidney, but that’s all he needs. He’s also got this condition called Chiari malformation that throws his perception off sometimes and makes things look taller or shorter or bigger or smaller. It’s fine most of the time, but being in public can be difficult sometimes. When he was 25, Brian moved back down to Texas and finished up college while working as a line cook. After Brian got his BA degree, he worked as a special needs teacher at a high school. He had 20 students and 12 assistants. It was a really fun job, except for the violent students (most of the students were the sweetest). While doing that, Brian got his MFA. He started sending out fiction and getting published. He published a book of stories, Short Bus, which made him really happy, and now he is an English instructor at South Texas College, where he is proud to work with the students and staff. Brian is also really proud of the books that he’s worked on at Boulevard and at Dark Sky—also, that he taught himself to juggle last summer. The best things are the things that are happening now. Brian’s happily married now. He met his second wife in a biker bar when she punched him so hard that he saw a bit of light. She kicks ass. A bit after the punch, they were holding hands. Also, she understands him. They have a two-year-old girl named Georgia who is perfect—and they have two dogs and two cats (Boo, Tyke, Wilson, Lola)—and Brian is really proud of having a family. He’s really proud that he can be proud of these things, because for 26 years he was a fucking mess.


scott mcclanahan said...

This is a great postcard Michael and a really great book as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for including this open and honest letter about this fine aspiring young writer. I, too, was a preacher's son and it was not until I was in my late 50's that I began to understand the burden that my father, and more importantly the pain that my mother carried. The anger he felt and pressure she endured in trying to measure up to some real and imaginary standards, self-imposed and imposed by others, in a church was an education in itself. My father had tried to live up to his mother's ideal of Christianity which included in this order...Rev. Dr. .Peter Marshall the Chaplain of the U.S. Senate and who as a young preacher visited her church, then God and then Jesus. The church that Dr. Marshall had visited was started by my father's grandfather after he had left Union Chapel Methodist Church in a small Georgia town and became a founding member of the Presbyterian Church there. Years after the murder of four young blacks it was discovered that most of the killers were buried in the Union Chapel Church cemetery. My father had lived through the Civil Rights era and even conducted a mixed race wedding that earned him the ire of his conservative church members. To hear him tell it, in his first church he made so little money that he had a hard time meeting his yearly tithe while feeding and clothing us. Christmas came around at the end of they year the church wanted more money at the same time that we kids were wanting a new Christmas toy or two. We moved to a bigger church with more responsibilities. One was a $5,000,000 building debt that became known even before my father arrived as Reverend Willis' Folly. Rev. Willis was the previous pastor who left when he could raise the money they promised they'd help him raise to pay for the place of his design...or so the building committee said. Dad was expected to take the lead in sinking the building debt and since his salary was not that much more than we had before and now there was my brother and sister to worry about, too, he became angrier and angrier. Embarrassed by the whole state of affairs that held him up as the surrogate Christian for others, he'd occasionally demolish something perhaps wishing he was Jesus running the money changers out of the Temple. I don't know for sure, but it was scary as hell for a kid. It all caught up with him eventually. Or maybe it was the grace of God telling him to quit paying the silly game. So he quit playing the game and decided he really didn't care what anybody thought. "Why if Christianity is merely a charade and window curtains on a slaughter house why add to the disgusting drama?" he'd say. He'd say "you know I preached love and peace and harmony and I didn't live it. I can't really say I tried to live it. Not really. I tried to put on a good show, but I didn't live it. And in quiting I became more of a Christian than I was before. It was like the Campus Crusader who would come up and ask you 'if you were to die tonight and God asked you 'why should I let you into my heaven?' What would you say?" Now I knew what the answer was, but I didn't accept it. It was too simple. I had to earn my way in," He'd say. "And even if I convinced myself that I couldn't earn my way in, I'd still bust a hump to live up to the image of Peter Marshall, or Billy Graham or Robert Schuller or some other well respected preacher who seemed to have it all. It was a sham. When I quit playing the game the anger vanished," he said. " Your mother's anger? That's another matter," he told me. "You'll have to get her own perspective on that and I will gladly take most of the blame for asking her to go into battle with me for all those years and not being the kind of husband I should have been." So thanks Michael. You've given me the window on my own life in this man's life story and what I saw inside the house was and is healing.


Rodney T. Smithers

Michael Kimball said...

Thanks, Scott. I loved the book too.

And thank you, Rodney, for sharing some of your life story. I too find views into my own life through the lives of others.