It's 12:40 on Sunday afternoon. I have just returned from Charlestown, where I climbed the 294 steps of the Bunker Hill Monument a personal best ten straight times. This I did in addition to walking three miles, after running three, after writing an op-ed that has been sent to two venues, after screening 1948's Oliver Twist, and after sending a story to an embittered, old fossil who would never publish the likes of me. That's Sunday morning completed. This individual's heyday--which was nonexistent--was the late 1960s. They're from Boston. They write about being Jewish in Boston. Nothing else. (And at this point, they're too incapacitated--creatively, not physically--to write hardly at all.) It's beyond boring. For fifteen years I have sent this person work, and I know it would cost them too much to publish me. One must maintain their desperate veil of illusions. They used to dump endless left-handed compliments on me about my "energy." Or, "Well, people will like it." Always said snidely, passive aggressively. And we can't have that, can we, people actually enjoying reading! That's what people who resent me because of what I am and what they are not, but who do on occasion interact with me, like to say. They don't like to talk of talent or genius, because they try to comfort themselves by making it sound like I just work hard (ha ha ha ha; right; you can stay up for 100 years, and see how far you get; what I am and what I do has very, very, very little to do with how hard I work; though I do work harder than everyone, too), and if they could work hard as well--which they vaguely think they might in the future--they'll produce like I produce.
This sundered person long ago resorted to publishing themselves in their own magazine. In November 2011 I went to NYC and schlepped up to Harlem to see them. That's what I'd do on behalf of my work. And they had this miserable office, overlooking an alley, and this was an upgrade they said--they were proud of it--and a miserable little hot plate, and you're in your seventies, and you all but weep for a period from fifty years ago when you were a sycophant following Donald Barthelme around, and yeah, of course you're going to hate anything fresh, original, that's not boring, that's done by someone who was everything you wanted to be but knew you never were.
I could change the name, and they might run something. Probably not, though, because it's the classic case, in addition to everything else, that if you have something millions of people can connect with, these people don't want it. They want the pretentiousness, the lack of life, the lack of meaning, the boredom, ad nauseum prose sterility, the crap that imitates their crap and the crap of their heroes who ought not to be anyone's idea of anything you look up to. You know what great writing does? It impregnates. It plants the seed. (Additionally, it's the absorbing egg.) This stuff, it's just wank against the wall. Why do I send what I send to this person? Because what is going to happen is eventually going to happen. And I am laying out all of the evidence, so that later, I, and others, can say, "Jesus, you had this one, too, and you did nothing?" You want to take something, you want to move forward, I'm here to listen. But if that doesn't happen, it gets handled a different way later.
Today's op-ed was about how there there is no meritocracy in art, in worlds of art, in 2018. This is from it:
"Let’s compete, cowards. Let’s make it a meritocracy. Let’s throw down on the basis of who is the best. Ah, but there’s the rub, isn’t it? Don’t like that, do you? Scared that you’ll be exposed for being that thing that you’ve always been afraid you are: and that’s not talented enough."
Anyway. I'm off to the symphony. I am loaded for bear this week. I have no forbearance at this point. Nor fear. By the by: one who climbs the Monument five straight times qualifies for Zulu warrior status. More than that, Zulu chief. But ten? Ten puts you at Zulu king. Was it hard? No, it wasn't, really. It wasn't pleasant. Curiously, I would say it was more challenging for my legs than my wind. The key is getting through the first five. Psychologically. Then it starts to feel possible. Today was the forty-first day in a row I climbed. And it's now 129 weeks without a drink. Near the top, on my fourth climb, there was this cute little girl--maybe six--coming down the stairs, and to each of the people in front of me, she'd say, "You're almost there, you can do it." She pulled up next to me and said, "you're good." And finally shaved for the first time in a week. I look quite youthful today, I would say.
It's twenty of seven now. The Patriots were pasted today. Unwise of Dion Lewis to pop off like he did postgame. Man City won the Derby, which was rather better. Patriots are going to be hard-pressed to get a bye. Will be interesting to see if they do not and how they handle it. They always have a cupcake road to the Super Bowl. Obviously I'm exaggerating somewhat--there have been some formidable foes in there. The Ravens, the Jaguars. But bye, home game, home game, is such an easy route to the last dance.
I probably added 100 more stairs today. I have a rule to never take escalators or elevators. There were the Government Center steps, then the steps coming out of the subway a couple times, then the steps up to the second balcony at Symphony Hall. There were a few flubs, but a lively Handel and Haydn Society performance of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto and Schubert's Great symphony. Schubert was kind of folsky--almost like a classical music street busker--but he sure loved to whip up some volume. Art Tatum had a goodly amount of Beethoven in him. Also worked on "Dunedin" while at the concert. Nota Bene, for looking back later, whomever you may be: the "aquifer" line was written there.
Reading stories from this Christmas Chiller anthology:
And here is a post-climb shot, after the ten. My previous best was eight climbs. That was when it was much warmer out. I still haven't tried to put the heat on yet because I have to move about 300 books and records in this veritable death zone of an apartment, and I'm also not confident I won't blow up the building. I have to do something to a pipe with a wrench--I don't know if I have a wrench--and then use a splint on fire to reach into this hole where there may be gas if I do the correct thing with the pipe. It's a multi-part process. I always feel like Raskolnikov when I try something like this. Please God help me get out of this place.
A man in the Monument today asked me how many laps I do. That's the second time someone has used that terminology. I like it. I also like how classical musicians clap when they're on stage.