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Acuity

Saturday 1/22/22

The story "Movie Night" is ripping through me this morning. It's overwhelming. The feelings that hit me do so with such clarity and ferocity. I know these people. I know them intimately. I know them as well as a person can be known. They share something with me--they give me their stories. I have become such a small part of my own writing process. In nature, Thoreau knew there was something beyond himself. Others might call this God. I need no label. But these people are how I know there is something beyond me.


I have also been thinking this morning about Billie Holiday, in part for the book proposal I am working on, and also because I wonder what would have happened to her if she hadn't died at forty-four. How much longer could she have kept singing? Her voice was barely there at the end. Could she have sung at fifty? Sixty? What would her life have been like if she couldn't have? I'm one of the people who love her final recordings, and of course I wrote about her very last taped performances--from here in Boston--for JazzTimes (which is in The Root of the Chord: Writings on Jazz's Essential Power and Artistry). But you have to listen past the voice and to her meaning, if that makes sense. She never had the vocal chops that Ella Fitzgerald did, but Fitzgerald never conveyed emotion like Holiday. The way she lived impacted her voice, so perhaps if she was going to live longer, her voice wouldn't have been in that condition anyway.


Unlikely and transitory relationships interest me greatly. I don't mean people using each other, or romantic relationships that don't work ultimately. I mean people put in situations where they become relational when they otherwise would not have. For instance: a couple breaks up over the holidays when one part of that couple has flown into town. They can't get a flight out, or the flight is cancelled. They are taken in for the night by the now-ex's sibling, with her family and kids. There are other factors at play in the break-up. It may not be this person's fault. Or they may have little to do with it. Or a couple of ex-husbands of the same woman who are put in a situation where they become relational, like after her death. Or even a couple that has divorced, where they have to rely on each other, or one has to ask something of the other, that doesn't have to do with the parenting of their kid. A proprietor at a seaside bed and breakfast, and the mother and child who come for a stay, because of a situation they are in elsewhere, and his relationship with the child over several days, whom he will never then see again. These are all elements of stories I am doing. "Pre" is the last one. "Movie Night" works this way.


Fields interest me so much. I find them fascinating. There is one in Rockport, called Seine Field, thus named because it's where the fishermen would dry out their nets. I need to write Post Road to get a copy of the issue that has "The Last Field," which is in Cheer Pack, and also to get paid for this and another story. It's very little money, but I do need it. Fields are liminal. They are clear, but also fraught with shadow, with possibility. The unknown of what will be and what has been. What has been upon the spot. They occur naturally, but one may also think of them as having been cleared. "Of fields, my father had three," is such a great opening sentence.


I am greatly digging "The Effect of Gravity Upon the Tub" from Brackets. It's a Padraig and Lorcan story, my Irish criminal duo, with Padraig speaking in his, let's say, heightened manner, and fancying himself a poet. They are in a house by the sea, hiding out, presumably after having done something...transgressive. Lying low. When they receive a visit that they shouldn't be receiving, but they're not exactly sure who the visitor is, or what his motive is. Things go sideways, as they say, in unpredictable ways. There's a lot of suggestion, possibility, without definitive declaration of what is happening, and the reader is implicated in the same stresses, anxieties, mounting fears, then outright horror, of the two main characters. Things start to come at them from all directions, and us, too. But is it real? Is it paranoia? Some of it is real--there's one horrible, grotesque piece of fleshy evidence upstairs in the bathroom with the claw-footed tub. Then we all realize that what is happening might be far worse than had even been supposed, which was already considerable. Somehow, it's a funny story at times as well.


I had written in these pages recently that people are plot. So, too, is acuity. What I mean is, when you reveal the essence of a human experience--any human experience--you will have a story. That sounds simpler than it is. I mean the essence. The bottom level. The core that also infiltrates all, is a part of all. This is about the construction of words, yes, but after having first seen and ascertained something--the essence. So that one is constructing those words in view of the essence. People want writing to be this "craft" thing, which is a lie, because then they have the illusion of control. They think they can learn to have a talent they don't have. You can't teach anyone to get to an essence. You have your characters, and they will have their essence of an experience. You create them, but they create the story, because it is their story, and now you have to see it and them at the essence. If you show that acuity, without a single degree or mote of separation, you will not only have a story, you will have a story that can exist for always. Writing is about so many other things than writing. I see these ridiculous "craft" books that people with no ability write and publish with whatever indie press. They offer nothing, and they offer nothing that is true. They're simply further attempts to feed the lie, and also the lies they tell themselves. They're the last people to tell you anything of value about how writing may work. Or even what it is, when it is meaningful. When it gives us everything that it can give us. People are plot. And so is acuity.


Tried to update my Twitter bio yesterday to include Brackets, whose real name isn't Brackets. That's just what I call it, and what everyone calls it, conversationally. But Twitter doesn't let you use certain characters like actual brackets in the bio space, so I just called the book Brackets.


Clark Gillies died I saw this morning, and at a young age--he was only sixty-seven. Gillies' name comes up a lot as someone who perhaps shouldn't be in the hockey Hall of Fame, but I think this is misguided. He was a proto-power forward, and among the most intimidating players in one of the toughest decades in NHL history. Plus, he was a member of the Trio Grande line with Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy. Is that the best line in league history? Well, I don't know if it's the best--Put Gretzky and Kurri with anyone, and the points will be a'mountin'. But maybe, if we're talking all-around play. Finesse, power, toughness. That's the line that could beat you the most ways in NHL history, certainly. Gillies also led the Drive for Five Islanders in playoff scoring in 1984--don't think many people know that. The scariest fighter too, conceivably? He's in the top ten, anyway. This is before my time, but I would have loved to go to a Bruins-Islanders tilt circa 1978.


The better NFL playoff games are tomorrow. Expecting one today to be ho-hum, the other to be a blowout. Both games tomorrow should be excellent and tightly contested. The way Josh Allen is playing, the Bills can win that game in KC. That Rams defense, meanwhile, is formidable, and has the guy who may be the best defensive player of this century, along with considerable help.


One meets a type of incredibly stupid woman on a dating sites who think all men are good-for-nothing cheaters, and also, too, that they're Sherlock Holmes on the case. The first thing they will say to you is to inquire about the women who might be in any of your photos. They think they're tricking you into revealing information, so they can bust you. That's how simple and stupid these women are. As if you're this serial cheater, cheating on your wife yet again, and you're so into your cheating that not only do you have a dating profile with your face in clear view, in image after image, but you take photos with the people you're dating and banging as you cheat. You love cheating so much, that you got these blind spots! Which will produce an exchange like this one today. Realize this is the first thing this genius said to me.


Detective: Who's the girl in one of your profile pics.


C: My sister, you mindless, creepy person.


And yes, the period, rather than a question mark, at the end of her sentence bothered me.


These are photos of Seine Field in Rockport, which are within walking distance of my beloved house that I am trying to get back. I simply want to be in my house on a day like this, creating, partaking of art, knowing that my work is out there doing what it can and should do in this world. I don't even need to be with anyone. I'll write, listen, read, watch, take a walk down to Seine Field, or the beaver pond, or the cliffs above the sea. I keep all of this in mind as a way to remind myself that I must keep fighting. I must keep going.