I have to move quickly, there is just so much to do. It's half past four on Monday AM. Each day over the weekend I walked twenty miles and ran the BC stairs ten times, so a total of forty miles and 5200 stairs. Yesterday marked 1491 days, or 213 weeks, without a drink. On the road above the Chestnut Hill Reservoir by a community garden I saw a beautiful goldfinch on Saturday. I usually only see them out at the Blue Hills or up on Cape Ann. On Saturday, I began work at 2:30 in the AM, part of which involved proofing the Charlie Parker feature (title: "History at 300 BPM: Charlie Parker, the Birth of Bebop, and America's Greatest Recording Session"), which I then filed with JazzTimes. Here is the first of the Beatles podcasts, on "There's a Place," for this Beatles Month I am doing on the Songs of Note for July. I believe somewhere it was stated that I remarked that it's their first masterpiece, which isn't really what I said--I suggested that it is their first mature work. We'll tape another episode early this afternoon, on "This Boy." This piece came out in The Daily Beast on Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, in which Rudolph gets canceled and attacked by the mob. It's funny. I don't think one will see a piece like it elsewhere. And this piece in The American Interest also came out over the weekend, on the most prescient episode of The Twilight Zone. The two pieces are written completely differently, there is expansive range between them, and yet only one person could have written either, let alone both, let alone both more or less simultaneously. The whole "You're not a good fit with what you do" thing, with me, is only and ever a lie, not a point that one can advance in good faith, because I write every which way, and I inhabit that way fully, and command the language of it fully as well. Other writers have one way. You can always tell it's me, and right away, but that's for different reasons.
As I walked yesterday--for the first quarter of my walk--I worked on two new stories in my head. Each story has about six parts, and as I invented the stories, with their parts, I went from one to the other and was actually annoyed with myself that I was also not inventing and writing a third simultaneously, though as I went along, I did important work on two others I had already been writing in my head. This is what I mean by saying I am always getting better. For a long time now, the end result, the final work of art, gets to the same qualitative place, it is going to stand untouchable, but five years ago it would have been enough to be on that walk and come up with something and sort of start to come up with things for it. Or I might have come up with the entire thing. My point is that what occurs now, internally, is easier than at any previous time, and faster, with more often happening at once.
Both of the main characters of the two new stories are female. With the other two, that already existed to some degree, I have stories of now, as I term them. For instance, in "Fitty" I wrote the major work of gun violence and school shootings; in "Six Feet Away," I wrote the major work of this period in history. With these two new stories, I will have the major work of the protests, and the major fictive work on race in America, period. The drivers of these stories are all-time drivers. I cannot stress how powerful a driver is, how few stories ever have them, how no stories now have them. The driver is everything. I'm not going to say the names of these stories yet. They will simply exist with me, for a while. What is occurring right now, is between me and them.
Someone left out a few boxes of old VHS tapes for the taking on Beacon Street, a cinephile, apparently, with good taste, and also Hermey from Rudolph. A line in I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang provided the title of a story of mine called "Hang It on the Limb," which is in Cheer Pack: Stories, and which Post Road ran. To "hang it on the liimb," is tantamount to saying, "Fuck it, I'm going for it, I don't care about the risk, the odds, I'm going for it, I think I can do it."
I discovered that my sweatpants I work out in have a huge gash in the crotch, which is wonderful, as I was sitting for a while in a park in which there were families, kids on bikes, women doing yoga. I can't sew and now all of my workout shorts and one of my only two pairs of sweatpants have this massive hole-in-the-crotch issue. This is a less than ideal theme.
Someone who is not healthy and not alone told me that it was unhealthy for me to spend so much time alone. They don't know me. Don't know my situation. Of course I hate every single aspect of my life right now. It is what would be hell for me. I think sometimes that maybe it is, that I actually already died. Hell would not be, as I said, flames and physical torture, if it were designed to cause me maximum suffering, if one believes in the Dantean contrapasso, with that idea that hell is tailored to you, to hurt you, personally, the most, with what would hurt you personally the most. It'd be this for me. It'd be what my life is right now. Doing work that is what this work is, having an entire industry trying to make sure the person doing that work gets nowhere. Do you know what it is like to create something you know is better than anything out there, or that has ever been, that they will not let the world see? How about creating a thousand things like that and getting better all the time? How about doing it while you have a track record none of them can touch, and while being the expert on so many things? I was always alone in what I'll call real ways, on account of my mind. Other people can be with people, plain and simple. People like them. I need someone brilliant and dynamic. It's always been that way. Or I am bored inside of thirty seconds, there is nothing there for me. Not in any real, sustaining way that has a future with the regularity of a relationship--any kind of relationship. I'm not someone who can really just kinda/sorta know someone, and "friend" to me is a significant term, one which I think a lot of people equate with "acquaintance." And obviously partner, or spouse, or significant other, or whatever label one wishes to use, is more still. Then there is my life, the situation I am in, and how the hell do you even begin to go into that with a stranger in a way that they can accept? Note I say accept, rather than understand, which is also a problem. This is historically unique what is happening here, on various fronts. It's not going to be within anyone's ken of experience, or any expectations or previous understanding of what they think is possible. They're going to have to start over, in some ways, with how they think, what they will allow and accept as possible. Both in terms of what I am, and in terms of what is happening. And usually, the people you meet are people who don't know the difference between "then" and "than," and shout forth a credo of "live, laugh, love." It's the same soul-sucking inanity almost every single time. And there's just nothing there for me with that.
And then there is what happened to me eight plus years ago, and I grew like no one has. The more I grew, the more I evolved, the more I came to know myself, the world, the more alone I became. The more you evolve, the less people there will be for you, especially now. But unhealthy for me? No--I think my health, in terms of who I am as an artist, a person, my physical health, is clear from these pages, and of course, the work. I did have a nervous breakdown, but it took six years of torture before that happened, and someone else would have had theirs in two weeks, if that, and still I created, still I carried on, still I fought to heal myself, because no one else was going to lift a finger to care or help. Undesirable, yes. This situation is definitely that. And so lonely. I don't know if someone can understand this level of loneliness. If I talk to somebody, it's because they're interviewing me. There's never any other time. I have no friends, I have very little support even in the form of the occasional stray kind word, though some people have sent along those of late, in part because, well, they're newer people in my life, relatively speaking, and I think as they see the work, see more of it, they are aware of what is happening here.
But I'll see other things out there in the world, with people who are fond of me, who look up to me, who want my respect, and they are almost always intimidated by me and thus say nothing. Some people have this Alpha thing they want to do, where it's so much easier for them to share a link to work by someone they don't think is smarter than they are. It's easier. It's more comfortable. There's less of a feeling of admitting anything--to themselves. It's a parallel move, doesn't bring with it that feeling of admission. Other people think I am so strong and invincible that they say nothing to me, not a "congrats on the book" or anything that they'd say to anyone else. I'm completely alone for so many reasons, it's not even one or two doozies regarding which you could implement some plan of solution. My solution is thus--get past the people of this industry, reach the world with my work, and that is going to take care of a lot of this, make it easier for other people to say things, and for me to meet different people. But can you imagine what this is like, and to work at least twenty hours every day of your life, and push yourself so hard physically so that your heart can withstand historically unique levels of stress and pain? Just so you can keep trying, keep creating, reach the world, and get out of that situation.
But to walk forty miles in two days with nothing but your own thoughts, and create, partake of nature, come up with ideas, read, partake of art, requires a level of health--because people can't hardly be alone with their thoughts at all--that has very rarely been possessed. It's far less about lack of health and far more about a maxed out hell and unique pain. And the most twisted circumstances, on account of the most bigoted of industries and someone who is utterly unlike anyone who has ever been in that bigoted industry. But I remember when the quarantine started, and people just started melting from the inside out within a weekend, because they couldn't handle not having the persiflage in their lives. They couldn't handle their own thoughts. Because when you are on your own, the truth is inescapable. It finds you. And very few people can see who they are, make the change they need to make, deal with various truths about themselves. There was a time in my life when I had to start over with myself, to look at who I was, the choices I had made, some of the foundations of my being, as though they were all wrong, I was wrong. And what I did was, while totally alone, no friends, no family, no support, no kindness, I walked 3000 miles a year, and I looked at who I was ruthlessly, I spared none of my feelings.
Do you have any idea how hard such an undertaking is? It would, I believe, literally kill most people. But I emerged from that period as strong as a person can be, and that period was crucial to what I became, was becoming, as an artist unlike any there has been. And then things got worse, and worse, and worse, because of what I was. The better I got, the more demonstrable that was, the more inarguable that was, the higher the stacking of achievements, the worse it got, because that's how publishing is. And that's where we are now. Even just this weekend, you have to understand, these people are going to hate you when this is your weekend. You file a cover story, you publish two things, this interview comes out, you physically train like a professional athlete, you're working on four short stories, you're fit, driven, you're up early on Monday to work on a book that is due, work on a story, proof another book that's coming out--and completely different book than the book you must finish, which is completely different from the book that is about to be released--and do an interview. I mean, of course they are going to hate you if you are that person. These silver spoon no-talents with their trust funds and lack of vision and imagination and their love of cronyism and MFA tropes and everything handed to them and the imagination-strangling world of academia, their focus on shit that no one out in the world could possibly give a fuck about, all of that bad, pointless, boring ass dreck written for the terrified, pretentious people of their system who also don't even really read any of it. Of course you will be the devil to people like that when your weekend is more than what they'll do in their life. There is no more assured given in the world than that these people are going to hate someone like that. They're programmed to hate anyone who isn't like them, let alone infinitely different in all the ways that really count.
But look. There is very little true mental health out there--there's distraction, there is self-delusion, their is the faux-communities of social media, there is self-medication, there is an infinite amount of lies to self, there is precious little real connection--but not a lot of true mental health. I have that in a way that no one else does. And it seems like I am paying the highest price for it. But that is only how it is right how. As I said before, right now is not always. And I know that I will help people, too. I have to keep going.
Shot here yesterday from the Public Garden--not often you don't see the Swan Boats in summer. Hazy day, willow tree dangling down. State tree.
And here is Hermey in his new digs, in a boot, outside my door. No gay dentist elf left behind.
Keep trying. You can get past these people. Total focus, no mercy, matchless art.