Dead Presidents

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

By Anthony Bergen
Posts tagged "Personal"
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.

I’ll be 34 years old next month and I live by myself, but I just went outside, made a snowball, and threw it at a tree.

I didn’t have snow where I grew up, so I’m making up for it now. I haven’t totally ruled out the idea of building a snowman.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
1. Holy crap @ all those books. 2. Are they all on presidents? 2. B), if so, have you ever been screened for any autistic or compulsive tendencies? (Semi-serious question - that much content on one subject strikes as just outside the bounds of normality...)
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No, they aren’t all about Presidents.  I read about everything.  Most of my books are non-fiction, but there are a lot of different subjects besides Presidents — all types of U.S. history, all types of World history, Papal history, space, biographies, autobiographies/memoirs, linguistics, neuroscience, some sports, it’s a wide variety.  There is some fiction in there, too, but mostly non-fiction.

I’ve never really collected anything else throughout my life.  My one passion has been reading, and I’m a self-educated guy, so I’ve been building myself a library for as long as I’ve been buying books.  It’s great because not only do I have enough books to always keep me busy, but I have a one-stop research library that I can turn to if I’m writing something and need the source material.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm a book lover and am always curious about how others organise their books. How do you organise yours? Do you gather them by subject? Author?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Organizing?  Hahahahahahahahhahaha…

I can’t even buy bookshelves quick enough to stock my books on, let alone organize them.  I am only half-joking when I say that I need an intern.  Here’s what part of my living room looks like:


I have a grand total of one shelf that is somewhat organized, and it really happened somewhat accidentally.  Earlier this year, I received a bunch of books about my favorite person on Earth, Pope Francis, and I wanted to make sure I kept tabs on which ones I had read and which ones I hadn’t.  So, I started a Pope Francis section that basically morphed into a Papal history/Popes section.  So, this one Papal shelf (the middle shelf, below the Obama bumper sticker) is about as organized as my books get right now:


I would like to note that I am accepting applications for a life partner (a young woman preferably), who would like to share a life of literacy and history and help organize my books.  I cook and do dishes and really don’t mind doing laundry, either.  It’s not an easy life, though.  As we have established, I am a bit of an ass.  In fact, if I placed a single ad, it would be like the old Pony Express recruitment posters, “Orphans Preferred”:


Asker Anonymous Asks:
What kind of blogs do you follow on here?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t follow many blogs at all.  In fact, I’ve been looking for some new blogs to follow.  I’m pretty picky, though.  

What most appeals to me is good writing.  My Tumblr is obviously writing-intensive (let’s put it this way:  if you looked up “long-winded” in the dictionary, instead of finding my face next to the definition, you would find a ridiculously unnecessary amount of words) and longreads — like the aptly named “Longreads” site — alway make me happy.

There are some individuals that I follow — some are people who I know in real-life (sirsamurai; calispeaks; dividedbyframes; narimonk; bllsmk) and some are people that I’ve met here on Tumblr over the past few years and find interesting or funny and would love to hang out with “in real life” (totaldrivel; jheath and irish-mexi; la-fraude-belle; giantsquidandlocomotives; caitlinfaith; imathers and nudewave; neutralangel; ghost-al-qaeda; thebombbag; notnadia; littlebrownskinnedgirl; dyslexianature; carveher; kaiyves).  I know that I’m probably missing someone that I am a fan of, so I apologize.

I also follow some publishing companies with really solid Tumblrs, like the Oxford University Press, Little Brown, W.W. Norton, Knopf, Doubleday, and Vintage Anchor just to name a few.  Then there are certain publications or content providers that I like to follow: The New York Review of Books; The Missouri Review; Stadium-Love-; The Paris Review; Millions Millions; L.A. Review of Books; LIFE; The-Feature, Lapham’s Quarterly, and Colonel Chris Hadfield.

And, of course, last but not least, there are some history sites that I really enjoy here on Tumblr beginning with the always-awesome Tuesday Johnson (tuesday-johnson; drtuesdaygjohnson; heckyesamericana).  The Presidential Libaries are well represented with a great jump-off point at Our Presidents.  The LBJ Library is one of my favorite places in the world and on Tumblr!  The Archivist of the United States has a wonderful site, and Today’s Document from the National Archives never fails to live up to its name with  a great post.

Although I do tend to be picky when it comes to the blogs that I follow, I actually really am in the market for some new additions.  If I don’t follow you, please don’t take it personally — I can’t even get make a noticeable impact on the questions in my inbox, so simply following everybody who follows me would probably result in epileptic seizures whenever I scrolled through my dashboard.  However, if you think your Tumblr fits in pretty well with the ones I listed above — especially if your posts are heavy on the writing and easy on the GIFs — give me a heads-up.  Or, if you know of a site that you think I’d enjoy, who is it?

Asker Anonymous Asks:
so you voted no to recall gray davis but who did you vote for as a possible sucessor?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Okay, well first, let me note that I am not usually a proponent of throwing your vote away.  I think it’s a silly form of protest.  However, I was very frustrated and angry about the 2003 recall campaign against Governor Gray Davis because I really liked Governor Davis.  His 1998 campaign was the first campaign I ever worked on and he had been reelected less than a year earlier.  He wasn’t corrupt and nobody ever accused him of corruption.  It was a partisan hijacking of the political process, financed by the man who is now chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa (who was hoping to become Governor himself but stepped away when Arnold Schwarzengger jumped in).

I used to take my daughter with me when I would vote so that she could see the process and hopefully it would resonate with her and encourage her to vote when she got older.  So, she went with me on the day of the recall election.  I voted “no” because I was against recalling Governor Davis, but it was very obvious that the recall was going to succeed, Governor Davis was going to be recalled, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to win.  So, I explained everything to Sabrina as best as I could, and let her vote because she wanted to fill in the bubble.

If it were up to me, I would have voted for Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, the top Democrat in the election.  (Bustamante had to run a weird, confusing campaign that said, “No on the Recall, Yes to Cruz!”)  Sabrina had other ideas.  She voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger — and here’s the great thing — because she’s been a smart-ass since she was five years old she didn’t vote for Arnold because she liked him; she voted for him because she thought it would be funny to have him as Governor and because she knew it wasn’t who I would vote for.  What a sweet little child — not her, everybody else’s kid.