About Ryan White

Ryan is The Wheelhouse’s Managing Editor, Web Designer, and Resident Eye Candy. You can follow him on Twitter, or in person if you're at 54.1473o N, 4.6888o W promptly at 9:00 AM weekday mornings. He just recently learned what “wheelhouse” means, and includes low-, mid-, and uni- brow humor as items within this. And phrenology too, depending on a state’s labor laws.

The Final Countdown and/or Post

Ryan

As followers of my work here know, I try to avoid writing anything remotely personal so that I can retain an aura of mystery and/or bacon around my “brand.” I’m going to make a slight exception to that here since, well, it’s the end of a Mr. Toad-esque 4-year wild ride.

So when my Dear Edtrix and I started up this thing in 2012, both of us were “between jobs,” and by complete happenstance realized we both liked writing (and were pretty damn decent at it too), and thought, you know what, let’s try this group blog thing all the kids are talking about. Maybe it would take off and we could make some sort of income (however measly) off of it, maybe no one except our respective family members and cyber-stalkers would read it, and maybe, in my dream scenario, it would become a huge internet sensation, we’d go on speaking tours and radio shows, I’d start dating a conceptual artist who would convince me everyone else was holding me back, and I’d change my name to something cool like “Chet Manly,” go solo, and get my own reality show.

What ended up happening was both all and none of the above, which makes sense if you don’t think about it (words to live by, people). To my surprise a lot of people actually read our stuff. Not just friends and family I’d bullied into reading it, but random people I’d bump into at parties who know one of the writers (mostly Juliet) or the type of friends you have on Facebook that you completely lost touch with (belated HBD to you!). Not that I was inundated with sweet, glorious praise, but it was definitely more people than I expected, and frankly, flattering since I envisioned our audience to be basically equivalent to a “tree falling in the forest with half a dozen burly lumberjacks around.” So for all who clicked on any of mine or other authors’ articles, thanks! Especially if you read through some of my early stuff when my dear edtrix tried to edit my five-page tomes to a more readable two-page blog post.

So what did I learn on my trip to TWR summer camp? I learned that I like to mix absurdism and nerdism into humor, and can write a decent dialog thanks to the voices in my head (shut it, Carl). I also learned that writing is, um, hard. When you first start out you have all these ideas built up over the years, and then once you churn them out you need to find new inspiration in new places and the occasional dark alley. Especially when you’re no longer between jobs and have to do actual adult-type work instead of think of topics for haikus. Most importantly though, I learned how to write in a style I like. I found my writing “voice,” and even wrote a not-so-short-story in said voice. Oh, I also learned the true meaning of Christmas, but that was unrelated to my writing. Just wanted you all to know.

So enough navel-gazing. As my dad used to never say, “it’s been real, homies.” Thanks for reading, thanks for the comments, likes, and shares, and thanks in advance for buying me a drink to celebrate our blog-tirement.

Kisses,

-R

Juliet

I feel as though I’ve written so much already about what working on The Wheelhouse Review has meant to me. It changed my life, putting me on a different career trajectory, forging deeper friendships, forming new ones. It gave me the space to experiment and find my voice.

It was just supposed to be something to do while looking for a job.

It has meant a lot to me to know that people have read my work and not only enjoyed it, but found that it resonated with them. That’s a huge gift, to know that someone thinks you are saying something worth hearing/reading. To every person who has told me that–thank you. It kept me going when I wasn’t sure if I should keep bothering.

It’s meant a lot to collaborate with fantastic writers and wonderful people. I knew Ryan from grad school and apart from making jokes about Arrested Development, we weren’t that close. That’s changed–he’s now like a brother to me, one of my all-time favorite people. His laid-back work style sometimes drove me crazy, but it also softened my edges, because I never, ever wanted to be a bitch to him. Working with Ryan has made me a better writer, but also a better person. And I would never have met Stephanie had we not been introduced by a mutual friend because we are both writers. A few weeks ago, I found myself attending the Mockingbird Conference in New York to hear Stephanie speak.The last time I had attended was four years ago and I was in the process of launching TWR. I could never have imagined then that I’d plan a whole trip to New York around seeing this person–who I hadn’t known would become a dear friend. I could never have imagined the way that she’d also soften my edges (politically) and how knowing and loving her has made me a more loving person. Thank you both. I treasure your friendship.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t amazing to write with Sarah or Alison or collaborate with Faith or Amanda. It’s just that I knew those women beforehand. Ryan and Stephanie were beautiful, wonderful, surprises.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for these past four years. You’ve helped change my life.

Dear Abby is Off Today: Final Rapid Fire Edition

Dear Abby Final(Editor’s Note: This post is part of a semi-regular series in which Ryan takes an actual letter written to “Dear Abby” and answers it himself. For further background see the introductory post here, or maybe also here.)

Well Ms. Dear Abby, you’ve been a good sport and worthy adversary over the past four  years since I made my TWR debut by dropping advice bombs with more wisdom than Miss Cleo reading “Chicken Soup for the Soul” with a Magic 8-Ball in hand. So I can think of no better way to sign off TWR than one last “Dear Abby is Off” post.

Letter #1, dated April 26, 2016:

DEAR ABBY: For the last five months I have been talking to a guy I met via a dating app. We live a few states apart and have yet to meet in person, but we communicate regularly.

With my tax refund this year, I’d like to do something for me. He suggested that I visit him. I don’t get any red flags from him, and I’m sure I’d be 100 percent safe while I’m there. However, I’m anxious about taking a trip by myself to visit a guy I’ve developed a massive crush on. I have thought about offering to pay his way here instead, or simply not going at all. I asked my friends and family for their opinions. Some of them think I should go, while others say I should pay his way here. I need advice from an outsider’s perspective. — CONFUSED AND CRUSHING

Continue reading

More Spring Haikus

Allergies
Thin yellow film coats
Like new glazed doughnut flavor:
EpiPen Surprise

________________

The Unsweatering
I see knees, elbows
So many joints visible.
I’m oddly aroused.

________________

The Unsweatering (Part II)
I see forearms, legs
Pale from the long winter, still
I’m oddly aroused

________________

Cinco de Mayo
Post-St. Patrick’s Day
Bro thaw season is complete.
Jagerbombs for all

________________

Adult Slow Pitch Softball League
I have no haiku
The title just seemed funny
Five more syllables…

The Americans on THE AMERICANS

Disclaimer: Neither Ryan nor Juliet have watched the latest episode of The Americans. But that’s great for you, because that means there aren’t any spoilers here…

Juliet

Hey Ryan!

The_AmericansSo we’re now four episodes into the fourth season of The Americans. The Americans is a show set in early 1980s Falls Church, VA outside of Washington, DC. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are a seemingly normal–boring, even–middle class couple. They run a travel agency in Dupont Circle while raising two children, Paige and Henry. But they are anything but normal–Elizabeth, aka Nadezdha and Philip, aka Mischa–are really Soviet “illegals” posing as Americans, sent to gather intelligence for the Motherland.

One theme in particular that stands out to me is faith, especially the different altars at which Elizabeth/Nadezhda and Paige worship. When we first meet Elizabeth, her unquestioning loyalty to the Motherland is in stark contrast to Philip/Mischa’s ambivalence. Elizabeth is a fundamentalist–she will do anything, kill anyone, sacrifice everything for the “Centre” and their cause. Philip is a moderate skeptic–it seems that in the back of his mind there is always the thought that he can just leave. It’s a thread that is pulled through all three seasons.

On the other hand, Paige is fully American. And a born-again Christian. Paige puts her faith in action for various social justice causes, including nuclear non-proliferation. We start to see, especially at the end of Season Three, where her loyalty truly lies.

Both perspectives can be dangerous: Elizabeth will literally kill for her cause, while Paige is willing to risk her family’s safety and freedom. But is it better to run hot like Elizabeth and Paige? Or to be moderate, like Philip?

Ryan

Man, I can’t believe how late I am to the game with this show. I remember when it first came out all the ads made it seem mysterious–sort of like Gabbo–and I didn’t know what it was about but it was called The Americans, and if there’s one thing like it’s America, hence, if there are many things I like it’s Americans. Then I watched the show and the “Americans” were Ruskies! Damn you FX for making a historic villain sympathetic protagonists. Anyway, I quit the show until a few months ago when I kept hearing how awesome it was, binge-watched the whole series in two weeks, and am now hooked like Henry on his video games.

I’ll get to your question of whether it’s better to run hot–e.g. Operation Hot Mother–like Elizabeth or tepid like Philip, but first I want to list my (few) gripes with the show and see if you agree. Gripe #1 is Martha. Actually gripe #1-10 is Martha. I consider myself pretty good at suspending disbelief when I watch TV or a movie. Hell, I’m pretty good at suspending disbelief in real life. Don’t believe me? Well then you have a lot to learn about suspending disbelief, mister. But the whole Martha thing is just….I mean c’mon! Marrying a dude who comes and goes about as predictably as a drunken clock maker? Not freaking the hell out and busting his car windows when he did his big “reveal” at the end of Season Three? (“Who are you?” “Shhh. It doesn’t matter. I’ll kill (for) you”). It’s just….c’mon!

And speaking of reveal, can we talk about their “disguises?” The producers must have gotten wind of this because in one scene the FBI gets a sketch of Philip and Elizabeth and says something like “damn they’re good at disguises.” Dude. Dude! Those are your neighbors with bad haircuts. It’s Elizabeth! She just has a wig that makes her hair look short (Felicity reference!). Maybe facial recognition skills were at an all-time low in the 80s (damn Reagan). Or everyone was just so coked up they couldn’t tell who from what or what from where (now brown cow).

Aside from those two gripes the show is amazing. And since I’ve completely ignored your “hot or not” question I’m actually going to toss another question back at you. What do you think of that est thing? Word on the internets is the show is based on a lot of historical fact, so maybe there was something like this back then. But it’s creepy. It’s kind of churchy–at least to a non-church going indifferentist like myself–but with more curse words and probably a hefty non-member entrance fee. What say you?

Juliet

So while I want to tackle est (it’s a real thing! It’s now called the Landmark Forum though), I first want to tackle Martha. And by tackle, I mean literally. Like to the ground.

I sadly can believe it, mainly because I–probably like a lot of other single women in their 30s–have believed the lie that pickings are slim so you gotta put up with some level of batshit if you want to get married at this age. This is of course A LIE and if anyone reading this has a boyfriend with a suspicious job, who is never around, and asks you to do shady shit, you should definitely not continue having sex with them.

But I fully get why Philip targeted Martha and why it was so successful. If women in today’s age are willing to put up with a lot of crap when it’s socially acceptable to be single, I can imagine a character who would stay back in 1983 or whatever. Plus, once he revealed he killed for her, I think that made her realize he could kill her. Yikes.

On to est…

I like that you brought that up because in some ways est serves the worship/faith function for Philip. I think it’s cool that he’s finally exploring his psyche and the story/cover he’s had to tell himself. I think in some ways est is a quintessential American thing–charging money to help people think and talk about their problems. I can’t imagine many Soviets, a great number of whom lived lives of suffering under Stalin, during the war, after the war, etc, caring so much about feelings and memories. Or caring about being self-actualized at all. It’s American wealth and privilege and leisure that enable that kind of introspection and self-actualization, isn’t it?

Now…tell me what you think about their friendship with Stan. Is it real?

Ryan

Ah the Stan-meister (I’m assuming that’s Philip’s bro name for Stan). I actually do think their–or at least Philip’s–friendship with him is real. Do I think his friendship isn’t driven in some part by his mission? Yes. Do I think he would hurt him (don’t do it producers!) if “The Center” told him to? Yes. Do I think asking myself questions in order to get a point across is a useful rhetorical tool? Yes, with a capital exclamation mark.

Here’s one reason why I think it’s a real friendship. He seems legitimately upset that Stan has IRL unfriended him after he was hanging out with his ex. The way he reacted to that relationship being strained wasn’t the same as when a relationship with a “source” or someone he’s “working” gets strained. It seems to legitimately bother him. And in the last episode he seemed to try to talk up Stan to his ex wife–sort of indirectly make amends with his estranged bro–though for the record he should not be hanging out with her in his house. Or maybe at all. Yeah, definitely not at all. Also, Elizabeth has teased him about being friends with Stan, and I’d bet rubles to donuts that Elizabeth knows how to read him like a warm knife through a bad analogy.

Ok, now I’m gonna toss a question your way but preface it with what may be an unpopular opinion. Ready: I think the show insists upon itself. Kidding! Ok real point now: I don’t like Pastor Tim. When he first came on the scene I thought he was going to end up being some kind of spy–either working for or against Elizabeth and Philip–but that plot twist has sailed (or has it….?). Even still, he irks me a little by just being….I don’t know…pushy. Like maybe insisting on himself a little too much. I have absolutely nothing to back that up with and no examples I can cite, but something about him… Maybe it’s the hair. Actually a large part of it is the hair. But I still don’t like or trust him. What say you about the possibly-next-in-line Pastor Tim?

Juliet

I’ll just say it…I think it’s the hair! Doesn’t it look like a terrible wig that say, a spy might wear? What if Pastor Tim and Alice are really counterintelligence who have figured out Philip and Elizabeth’s cover and are instead recruiting Paige against them?

That might be a little far-fetched. But as someone who has worked in ministry for a while, I can agree that something feels off. Why is Pastor Tim cool with him and his wife being the only guests at Paige’s birthday dinner? Why do they let her stay with them? I get the sense that they can’t have kids so Paige is a surrogate for them. But still…the boundaries feel a bit off.

Which is why I wonder if there is more to Tim and Alice than we think. And it’s what brings me back to my first thoughts. So much of the show is about faith and trust…are the people around you who they say they are? Can your government be trusted? Can your family be trusted? Can what you put your faith in, what you believe in, be trusted? We know from history that the Centre literally cannot hold, that Philip and Elizabeth have put their faith in the wrong thing. How long will it take for them to see that?