Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Posts tagged "Personal"
Asker hoolahay Asks:
Since you're a hip hop fan, do you have a favorite female rapper?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Of course. Now, I know that there’s a tendency in nearly all areas of entertainment to look at what is fresh and new and anoint it as what is best, but it is worth saying that I’ve been listening to hip-hop for as long as I’ve been able to turn the radio stations on my own and buy music and I strongly feel that Nicki Minaj is probably the best female MC of all-time if we’re ranking rappers separately by gender. If we don’t rank rappers by their gender, Nicki Minaj is still near the top of the list; she’s an incredible MC. 

Is she my favorite female rapper? She’s up there, but, no, not just yet. I think that my favorite is probably still Lauryn Hill. I don’t know if I am physically capable of hearing a Lauryn Hill track — whether it is solo (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of the greatest albums of all-time) or from the Fugees — and not listening to every word and every beat. I’m also a big fan of Missy Elliott (I can’t wait until she finally drops Block Party!), Eve, and, of course, the late, great Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. And not only would I be remiss, but I’d be downright embarrassed if I didn’t mention the first-ballot Hall of Famers — pioneers like Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifah, Lady of Rage, Monie Love, and MC Lyte. Also, they didn’t last very long, but I’ve still got love for Infamous Syndicate.

carolinealexandra:

The very sweet and beautiful @vanessaborn … thanks for being so sweet and lovley to your fans Vanessa means alot! Would of loved and be honored if you had followed me! #vanessaborn #beautiful #gloria ☺️❤️

Oh, hey, I used to know her.

Why/when did you start deadpresidents? Also, how/when did you decide that this could be a viable career?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I started Dead Presidents in March 2008, but only posted sporadically until about August 2009 and that’s when I started posting more regularly. It really blew up (in a good way) in January 2010 when I posted three lengthy essays in three consecutive days: "What Have I Done?" about Nixon’s last hours in office; "The Elegant Mr. Arthur" about Chester Arthur; and, "The Light Has Gone Out of My Life" about Theodore Roosevelt’s first wife and his mother dying on the same day in the same house. I actually wrote all three of those essays on the same day over a couple of hours and decided “What the hell?” and posted them on my personal blog that I don’t update anymore before posting them here. At that time, I had way more followers on that blog than I did on Dead Presidents, and I didn’t know if there was an audience online for essays about the Presidents or history that were 3,000-8,000 words long. Once people started sharing the essays, I realized that I had underestimated the appeal of what I was doing, and that there were opportunities there.

I’ve been studying the Presidents and the Presidency my entire life, and I started writing on the subject in 2004, but it was just a hobby. I didn’t realize that I could make money off of it, and I probably couldn’t have at the time. If I go back and read the things I wrote from that time — or even some of the things I wrote in 2008 and 2009 — it’s as if a completely different person wrote them, and in many ways that’s the case. I’m a way better writer in 2014 than I was in 2009, and I was exponentially better in 2009 than I was in 2004. But once I recognized that there was value to what I was doing, I decided to take advantage of it in whatever way I could. I gained a lot of followers after those three essays in January 2010, but what really caused a surge in followers was when I started answering questions. I was stunned — I’m still stunned! — that there was anyone who wanted to ask me questions about the Presidents, the Presidency, history in general, or just random personal stuff. But there were and it has never slowed down because once I started answering questions, more questions came in, and it’s now to the point where I simply can’t keep up with them, no matter how badly I tell myself that I’ll answer everything in my inbox. The blog started to grow very quickly once I began answering questions, and I’ve gained followers at a steady pace since then. There have been a few instances where something I wrote was shared more often than usual or when I’ve been spotlighted by Tumblr and my followers have spiked — in fact, I’m currently in the midst of one of those surges over the past three weeks or so.

But what made me realize that I could actually make serious money from doing this instead of having another career and doing this as a hobby is when I started answering questions and saw the number of followers that I had. I get way more questions — and from what I can understand from Google Analytics — way more visits from people who don’t have Tumblr than I do from followers on Tumblr who view my posts via their dashboard. So, once I considered those numbers and talked to some people who knew way more about making money off of advertising commissions than I did, I set up accounts with Google and Amazon, and I’ve made way more money than I ever imagined I’d make from posting stuff on the internet. And, best of all, everything I have written and posted online has always been free, so it didn’t affect my readers at all. Then I decided to take a shot at self-publishing a book for Kindle with Tributes and Trash Talk: What Our Presidents Said About Each Other and realized that it was another avenue that could bring in money, and while it wasn’t a “real” book to me because it wasn’t something that you could walk into any bookstore and buy, it sold really well. And, quite frankly, I probably made more from self-publishing it than I would have if it had been published by someone else because I was able to price it however I wanted and other than the small percentage that went to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I received every cent of the royalties from each book sold. That wouldn’t have worked unless I had a platform like Dead Presidents to spread the word about the book and post links whenever I wanted to an audience that was already familiar with me and my work.

I know…I know…it’s boring and kind of uncomfortable to talk about money, but I’m getting to a point. You asked me how I realized that this was a viable career and the answer is that it was you — my readers and my Tumblr followers, the people who ask questions and “like” my posts and reblog what I write. Without this platform, I couldn’t do what I do and earn what I earn, and I wouldn’t have this platform without an audience. So, it is due to you and you and you (but not you over there). I get a lot of e-mails and messages from people thanking me for something that I write or saying that I helped them in some way and I always say that it means the world to me. That’s not just a general answer that I automatically send off to everyone; I genuinely mean that. I’m creating something from nothing — new words on a blank page — but it is you guys that truly give it life. I have a lot of followers on Tumblr, but really, I’m just speaking to a bunch of individuals, and what I’m saying is nothing until those individuals share it and make it into something bigger than it was when I hit “Post”. When I post an essay, it’s just a bunch of silent words, but when you read them and share them, you help those words to speak and to make some noise and that is what brings them to the attention to others. I’d probably do this if I had no followers, but you guys give me a voice and you are what makes me successful. I do appreciate the messages that tell me, “Thank you”, but I don’t fully understand them because, quite frankly, you all do far more for me than I can ever do for you.

Dear Readers,
I have written millions of words about history and the Presidents here on Tumblr, but few of those words have been about me or my personal life. I answer questions about myself once in a while when people are curious about the guy behind my work, but most of my readers know that I very rarely post anything personal, and I don’t ever ask for anything from you; for me, your support and the kind feedback that I usually receive about my writing is enough and I always appreciate it.

But there are obviously things that I care about and have a personal interest in, and I recognize that I am fortunate enough to have a platform that gives me a certain amount of influence that might be able to make a difference when it comes to subjects that I have an interest in. I have well over 10,000 followers who see my posts on their Tumblr dashboards and upwards of 25,000 unique, non-Tumblr users who regularly visit this website every day. I would never abuse that audience by using my platform to spam my readers incessantly. However, I am taking advantage of that platform today and reaching out to you, my audience, on this one specific occasion because it means a lot to me.

When I was 19 years old, I started running an after-school program for elementary school children (ages 5-12) in Sacramento. It was a pilot program taking place in a half-dozen schools in our school district and it failed at six of the seven schools, so when the grant which funded the program expired after three years, the school district chose not to reapply for the grant. The program did not fail at my school, though; the students in my program showed continued improvement in attendance, behavior, classroom grades, and standardized test scores every year that they were in my program. My program was such a success, in fact, that our site re-applied for the grant’s recertification on our own, as a stand-alone program. And despite applying for another grant by ourselves, without any significant support from anyone but our school’s parents, students, and staff, we received approval for three more years of funding. It remains the most important and rewarding thing that I have ever done in my life.

Audreyanna was in my program throughout her time in elementary school, and I grew close to her and her mother over the years. I had wonderful relationships with the families and students in my program and within the community, and have always hoped that my former students were able to learn at least half as much from me as I learned from them. As the families and students have gotten older, many of them have lost touch, but Facebook helps me to see how far so many of my former students have come. Audreyanna and her mother were more than participants in my program, though; they became something like family to me, as quite a few of my former students did.

I’m sharing this GoFundMe effort because I know how hard Audreyanna has worked to get to where she is today. I’ve always known that she could do whatever she set herself out to do. I know that is one of those phrases that sounds like a cliche, but it is quite simply the truth. For years, Audreyanna was like a daughter to me and I can’t help but be immensely proud of her. Audreyanna’s GoFundMe project isn’t some crazy pipe dream; it’s a pragmatic step towards advancing further in the career field that she has chosen and has worked diligently to accomplish. She’s hoping to raise funds that would allow her to take the classes necessary for her to become a registered dental assistant.

My readers don’t know Audreyanna, but you know who I am, and since thousands of people will read this, I’m not going to hesitate for a second if I can write a few paragraphs that could possibly steer some support towards a person that I have always cared about as if she was my own daughter, have constantly been proud of, and who is working so hard to achieve her goals.

Please consider helping Audreyanna out via her GoFundMe page. I assure you that you would be supporting someone absolutely deserving of your help. You would also make me one very grateful Presidential historian — in fact, if you help turn Audreyanna’s dream into a reality and make a donation to Audreyanna’s GoFundMe project, I will send you a free PDF copy of my book, Tributes and Trash Talk: What Our Presidents Said About Each Other. Just e-mail me (bergen.anthony@gmail.com) and let me know that you made a donation and I’ll send you a copy.

Thank you,
Anthony

I have written millions of words about history and the Presidents here on Tumblr, but few of those words have been about me or my personal life. I answer questions about myself once in a while when people are curious about the guy behind my work, but most of my readers know that I very rarely post anything personal, and I don’t ever ask for anything from you; for me, your support and the kind feedback that I usually receive about my writing is enough and I always appreciate it.

But there are obviously things that I care about and have a personal interest in, and I recognize that I am fortunate enough to have a platform that gives me a certain amount of influence that might be able to make a difference when it comes to subjects that I have an interest in. I have well over 10,000 followers who see my posts on their Tumblr dashboards and upwards of 25,000 unique, non-Tumblr users who regularly visit this website every day. I would never abuse that audience by using my platform to spam my readers incessantly. However, I am taking advantage of that platform today and reaching out to you, my audience, on this one specific occasion because it means a lot to me.

When I was 19 years old, I started running an after-school program for elementary school children (ages 5-12) in Sacramento. It was a pilot program taking place in a half-dozen schools in our school district and it failed at six of the seven schools, so when the grant which funded the program expired after three years, the school district chose not to reapply for the grant. The program did not fail at my school, though; the students in my program showed continued improvement in attendance, behavior, classroom grades, and standardized test scores every year that they were in my program. My program was such a success, in fact, that our site re-applied for the grant’s recertification on our own, as a stand-alone program. And despite applying for another grant by ourselves, without any significant support from anyone but our school’s parents, students, and staff, we received approval for three more years of funding. It remains the most important and rewarding thing that I have ever done in my life.

Audreyanna was in my program throughout her time in elementary school, and I grew close to her and her mother over the years. I had wonderful relationships with the families and students in my program and within the community, and have always hoped that my former students were able to learn at least half as much from me as I learned from them. As the families and students have gotten older, many of them have lost touch, but Facebook helps me to see how far so many of my former students have come. Audreyanna and her mother were more than participants in my program, though; they became something like family to me, as quite a few of my former students did.

I’m sharing this GoFundMe effort because I know how hard Audreyanna has worked to get to where she is today. I’ve always known that she could do whatever she set herself out to do. I know that is one of those phrases that sounds like a cliche, but it is quite simply the truth. For years, Audreyanna was like a daughter to me and I can’t help but be immensely proud of her. Audreyanna’s GoFundMe project isn’t some crazy pipe dream; it’s a pragmatic step towards advancing further in the career field that she has chosen and has worked diligently to accomplish. She’s hoping to raise funds that would allow her to take the classes necessary for her to become a registered dental assistant.

My readers don’t know Audreyanna, but you know who I am, and since thousands of people will read this, I’m not going to hesitate for a second if I can write a few paragraphs that could possibly steer some support towards a person that I have always cared about as if she was my own daughter, have constantly been proud of, and who is working so hard to achieve her goals.

Please consider helping Audreyanna out via her GoFundMe page. I assure you that you would be supporting someone absolutely deserving of your help. You would also make me one very grateful Presidential historian — in fact, if you help turn Audreyanna’s dream into a reality and make a donation to Audreyanna’s GoFundMe project, I will send you a free PDF copy of my book, Tributes and Trash Talk: What Our Presidents Said About Each Other.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Your cover photo (which is present in the Tumblr mobile site) is awesome! Just wanted to drop by and say that. Did you make it?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

This illustration?

It’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? No, I didn’t create it — I can’t even draw stick figures, so the visual arts are not something that I do well. Or do at all.

This illustration was created by a reader in the United Kingdom named Callum who just randomly sent it to me and it totally blew me away.  I love it, especially since the artist, who I’ve never met and who lives on a different continent, basically captured exactly what my workspace looks like when I’m deep in the middle of writing a really lengthy essay or magazine feature. There aren’t any photographs anywhere showing me work, and it’s almost eerie that he captured it so perfectly, right down to the books literally stacked up around me. Plus, it actually kind of looks like me!

I also love the small touches — the Presidential flag in the corner, the boom box nearby as an homage to my frequent hip-hop mentions, the computer monitor displaying the actual front page of my Dead Presidents website, and best of all, the fact that I’m working at the famous HMS Resolute desk that most modern Presidents since Rutherford B. Hayes — with the exception of LBJ, Nixon, and Ford — have used in the Oval Office.

(Sadly, I don’t actually have a Resolute desk to work at, but considering how much entertainment and education that I have brought to all of my readers over the years, I don’t think it is out of the question to think that you guys might want to band together and purchase this beautiful replica of the Resolute desk for me. I mean, it’s only $7,995 — a big discount from the original price of $12,000! I’ll go ahead and thank you now for such a generous gestured and will be pleased to give you an address to ship it to once you’ve made the purchase.)

Back to another generous gesture — the illustration that one of my British readers, Callum, created and sent to me.  I was stoked when he sent it to me and wish I had more places to share it because it is fantastic. I asked Callum if he had a website that he wanted to plug when he sent me the illustration last year and he gave me a link to this site but said he hadn’t been updating it often.  Hopefully, he’ll get back into the game and update it some more because he did some great work with the illustration of me and that was totally unsolicited and without knowing anything about me, so he certainly has the talent to do some creative things.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
You haven't given any updates on your health? How are you feeling???
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I am feeling pretty good — thanks for asking, and thanks for the concern and well-wishes from all the people who e-mailed me or sent messages via Tumblr and Facebook.  I truly appreciate it.

For anyone who didn’t hear, I had a little health scare as I was in the process of moving back to California at the beginning of last month.  It certainly wasn’t fun, but all in all, I was pretty lucky for a guy who was in cardiac arrest for as longer as I was.  The biggest worry once I wasn’t dead anymore were my kidneys, but it seems like everything is functioning as they should be. 

I’m actually still really sore in my chest and ribs, and I guess that’s still from the CPR.  I’m positive that I don’t have any broken ribs, but they are badly bruised, even a month later.  It’s definitely not as bad as it was a few weeks ago when any movement (or laughing, coughing, breathing, etc) was brutal, but the ribs and muscles in my sternum and right below my pectoral muscles are still pretty painful if I put much pressure on them. 

That’s the main lingering issue from what happened.  Obviously, I’m still recovering fully and I have a check-up in a couple of weeks to see where I’m at in my recovery.  I don’t feel like there are any complications with my kidneys, thankfully.  That was the major worry because they were only functioning at 25% of what they should have been when I was hospitalized in Denver.  The best thing is that I quickly lost all of the weight I gained from the fluids they pumped me with in the hospital to flush my kidneys and get them functioning. When I left Denver, I looked like Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka (except I wasn’t blue) because they had me hooked up to IVs constantly for a week and I weighed 210 lbs when I was released from the hospital.  That was the first time in my life that I weighed more than 200 lbs and, a week earlier, before I was hospitalized, I only weighed about 160 lbs.  Fortunately, I dropped that excess 50 lbs. even more quickly than I had gained it!

Actually, I guess the “best thing” doesn’t have anything to do with the excess water weight that I was able to lose.  The real best thing is that I am still here, still a hopeless insomniac, and still able to answer your questions in the middle of the night because of it.  Since I have no memory of my little health scare or what caused it, I have the tendency to downplay it because it doesn’t feel like I went through it, but that it just happened to me, if that makes any sense.  I wasn’t aware of what happened until several days later when I woke up, so I almost feel removed from it.  I’m also just not the type to really dwell on something after the fact which I wasn’t able to control or influence.  But I do understand the significance of what happened.  If I take the time to really consider it, I recognize how serious the situation was and I realize how lucky I am to have made it through it.  Since I am feeling pretty good and the entire incident seems like a disconnected dream that I was unconsciously starring in, it takes some thought to fully digest it.  Once I do, however, I know that I could have died…almost died…according to one doctor, should have died…and when I comprehend that, I realize how goddamn lucky I was.

I still have a few more weeks of recovering my strength and getting back to normal, but I’m definitely making progress.  I’m back home in California, and that’s awesome.  I’m really looking forward to fully getting back on my feet because I’m anxious to see and hang out with my friends.  I’ve missed them and haven’t seen them for four years and, even though I am back home, I’ve had to postpone catching up with them until after I’m feeling closer to 100%.  So, that’s definitely one of my big goals that I’m anxious to accomplish.

Thanks again for checking up on me. I do appreciate it and, with any luck, I’ll be here for the foreseeable future giving far lengthier answers to questions than anyone could ever possibly need.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
This has nothing to do with presidents but what you wrote about aesops fables in 'red card' made me do a spit take. the whole post is great esp that part.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Thank you! That Red Card essay is actually one of my personal favorites when it comes to the things I’ve written. But for those who don’t want to read about why I got ejected from a 7-year-old girls soccer game (not one of my lifetime highlights), here’s what I wrote about Aesop’s Fables that the person is referring to:

If this was one of Aesop’s Fables, the moral of the story would be that nobody fucks with my kids and makes them cry without facing a barrage of inappropriate language and outlandish threats of creative violence. Also, if this was one of Aesop’s Fables all of the characters would be creepy wild animals that somehow spoke a common language and taught each other lessons that built character even though every lesson in Aesop’s Fables was taught in about as shitty of a way as possible and designed to humiliate the animal who learned the lesson, which probably made for a very unhappy environment of distrust and wounded pride.

So, after four long years, I’m thinking about going…home.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Am I confused or did you once mention you have a daughter? How old if you do?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, I do.  She is not my biological daughter, but I don’t believe that you must share the same blood to be family, and I know for a fact that you don’t have to father a child to be a father to a child.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hope you don't mind a personal question but I was curious about when and where you were born
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t mind personal questions at all.  If it’s something I don’t want to answer, I won’t, but I really don’t have much of a problem with most of the personal questions that I am asked.  

I was born at 1:23 PM on January 20, 1980 at Sutter Memorial Hospital in downtown Sacramento, California.  Oddly enough for what I would eventually do with my life, my birthday is Presidential Inauguration Day.  While there wasn’t an inauguration on the day I was born in 1980 (Jimmy Carter was entering the final year of his Presidency; Ronald Reagan was inaugurated on my 1st birthday), I was born on the same day as Super Bowl XIV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams.  

There’s no need to calculate which Super Bowl that was and which Super Bowl just took place.  It makes me sound old.  

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What are your five favorite cities in America and why?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

•Santa Cruz, California: My favorite place to just drive to and chill when I lived in California. Scenic, quirky, not too big, not too small, good food, fun stuff to do.

•San Francisco, California: I don’t know how anyone could get bored in or bored of San Francisco.

•Seattle, Washington: Even though they tried to steal my NBA team, I have a lot of love for Seattle. Reminds me a lot of San Francisco, and I had fun every hour that I spent in the city.

•Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The history, the food, the crazy-ass people. I have great memories of my trips to Philly to do my friend’s radio show events. (The only drawback to Philly is that the people there have the worst accents in the world — and I say that with love to all my Philly friends!)

•Missouri Wine Country (outside of St. Louis): Where I currently live. I’m a city boy — born and raised in inner-city Sacramento. I find peace in these rural, rolling hills of Missouri’s wine country. I never have to look over my shoulder, I don’t have to constantly be on guard, I don’t have to carry a razor blade around to slice someone up who tries to cause trouble, I don’t fall asleep every night to sirens and police helicopters. No one has ever tried to shoot me here — I can relax here. And I can get lost here. It might be the only place I’ve ever found serenity.

(Honorable mention: Saint Paul, Minnesota: I hated Minneapolis, but loved the other Twin City. I thought it was a wonderful little town, was a big fan of Garrison Keillor’s little basement bookstore, thought the Cathedral was gorgeous, and give the highest recommendation to the science museum downtown.)

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Quick follow up question about the guy who tried to shoot you when you were younger - you said that guy "didn't get an open casket funeral". Were you involved in making sure of that?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Sorry that I didn’t see this follow-up when I answered questions about this experience a few days ago.

First of all, I don’t want to dwell too much on this. It was an unfortunate experience that took place a long time ago. It feels like it happened in another lifetime. I lived in a rough place and these things sometimes happen in such places. I was lucky that the guy who targeted me had spectacularly bad aim.

To answer your question, I was not directly involved with what happened to him afterward. This was a guy who had caused a significant amount of trouble for others and who had put several people’s lives in danger. I was not the only person who wanted him dead, but it’s important for me to note that, although he tried to kill me, I had no plans to kill him and, in fact, kept a group of others from doing just that immediately after he tried to shoot me.

A dangerous neighborhood is an unforgiving place, especially when you put lives at risk. Like I said, this all took place a long time ago — it was a completely different life. The guy who tried to shoot me had many enemies, and he made an enemy out of me by trying to take my life. But I didn’t kill him and I didn’t order anyone to kill him. I wanted to escape that cycle and make something different of my life, and I am lucky I was able to do that.