relationships need tune ups too
Also v exciting about your pilot!
DONBRENKO is an incredible name punch up, A+
okay the comments are back
JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL
I do love the thought that life is one giant jar of marmalade — I’m thinking chunky orange.
CCPR needs some CCR
I wanted to put my standard silly comments, but damn, Alex, what an essay. What a way to tie together these threads.
i'm a new reader (shoutout to cafe anne who couldn't describe your newsletter and, for some reason that made me read it)...i'm from RI, and now live in boston indeed quite close to rt. 1. now i have to check out the mcdonalds. i really love your writing! i got that feeling i had heard it before (but not in a "he sounds like tons of other people" way) and realized finally that you remind me of a friend i used to have. we worked for the same company and would crack each other up all day over gchat and then go on smoke breaks together where we would stand together awkwardly and mostly silently because real life is hard.
a car story: my old vw golf (whose name was nugget, and i named it only because i was dating a guy who named his cars and said i should - he drove a black dodge neon named skittle) started smoking in the tunnel here one day on my way to a petsitting client in eastie. by some miracle i was able to get out of the tunnel and off the exit. some men rushed out from some mechanic looking type place and said here, put some water in it. i got down the block to my client, told my partner about the car who said "it will be fine, now hurry up and drive home we have a club night to run." we lived in cambridge at the time and i just made it to our exit off storrow drive and as i was coming up the exit and about to turn onto the bridge, the car whole ass died. no power, no steering, nothing. and now i'm blocking this huge exit during rush hour on a friday, and i have horrible anxiety and i'm losing it. i'm hysterical. but it's also fucking cambridge so a grew of guys who happened to all be on a crew team together happened by while i was sobbing and panicking in my drivers seat and were like HEY, HEY. IT'S OK WE'RE GONNA PUSH YOU OK. and they pushed my car, with me in full meltdown mode inside it, to a safe space away from traffic where i was able to get a tow. it was a miracle. and it was also probably quite the scene. (the car unfortunately never recovered, and sat in our driveway until our apartment burnt down and i sold it to the landlord for a reasonable stack of cash.)
anyway, i too often wonder why i didn't ask more about people when they were here, and why i don't ask things i want to know of my parents now. i should. i've started to a little bit. it's such a weird phenomenon. we have all this time, and we don't do it, then later you're going through the things of a dead relative and everybody's wondering the same things and nobody ever asked.
specific things i love include
-- the paragraph that begins "There’s simply no way to explain"
-- “don’t you die on me you son of a bitch”
-- "Believe it or not, pushing a car is HARD. Cars are HEAVY. " (i believe it!)
-- MoshJesus (MJ)
-- "calm as two cucumbers"
-- "Alik didn’t have a childhood, the stories go"
-- "the land of almond milk and raw honey"
-- "People can’t ever tell when he’s kidding and when he’s serious, like he exists in that liminal space, that hazy intersection between joke and truth where there is no longer a difference between the two" (BOTH ARE TRUE? origin story?)
-- "Turns out I don’t know what my own car looks like."
-- "And then, much like Onyx, the convo dies."
-- "another miracle happened: Onyx died again." (JUST LIKE JESUS KIND OF BACKWARDS! THE SECOND GOING!)
-- “It’s funny today, maybe.. What, you think we had toilet paper?”
-- “What was good?,” he replies, “We were alive. We didn’t die during the war.”
-- "I do steer (heh) our conversation to cars" (HEH INDEED)
-- "not to toot his own horn (nice)" (AND ALSO WITH YOU)
-- "I didn’t ask Alik or my dad for help. Because I didn’t need to, because I knew what to do. Also because Lenia told me what to do."
-- “I love you.”
-- "Grandparents are a fascinating contradiction - they are some of the closest family you have and yet your lives could not be more different. " (TRUTH)
-- your grandpa
you've done it again! (or you're still doing it. either way, it's happening!)
I’m a new reader and I’m in tears - laughing! Your car problems are hilarious! Your writing is absolute gold!
ALEX I'm enjoying that.
This is the first piece of writing of yours that I have read and it’s beautiful. The relationships with grandparents are funny things and so wrapped up in layers of stuff that we as grandkids can only guess at or imagine. Thanks for writing this. It’s got me thinking about my grandpa and the conversations that I could have with him. I’m so glad you have found a way to have deeper conversations with your grandpa.
I have no idea how I found my way here but that was genius and so fun (and sweet) to read. Also, I live on the north shore of Boston. :)
I love your writing so much. Found you through Substack featuring you last Sunday past, and am just reading current and older posts. Such beautiful, timeless writing about family, and love and loss and internal divides. I also grew up in Rhode Island, East Providence, with Portuguese immigrant grandparents, fifty years ago. The past is a big place. Your writing brings me back there.
Gah. You caught me at just the right time for this one. I just went back home for the first time since my grandmother, my last grandparent, died 8 years ago. My parents moved out here to almost-Rhode-Island after that and made it 7 years before moving back, and I took my whole family to visit, most for the first time (or the first time they’ll remember; my oldest was 2 and my youngest hadn’t been born yet).
She died suddenly and, while we had a good relationship and I often asked her questions in her later years, I forgot most of the answers and wish I’d recorded them somewhere.
Being back home stirred up a lot of shit for me, and this newsletter stirred up even more. Well done, once again, Dobrenka. Or Sasha. Whichever you prefer.
I love it, Alex, this is my third go-round with this piece (who wants to let go of what's good in this life?), and, it's hilarious, wry, poignant, bittersweet, holding back but savvy enough to let your foot get a tiny bit heavier on the gas (or more torque if its EV) in the right spots. Thank you for sharing something your little one gets to read when he's old enough to want to read it (it'll be a while) and he's got a little one, and he reminds him holo you to chat. This piece is THE show, greenlit, live, prime-time, and we're looking forward to you narrowing that gap between Alex and Alik because regret's no way to go. In a word, fantastic piece (as usual).