It seems highly unlikely at this point in my life that I could be anything but alone. I would like to be wrong, but I don't think there is necessarily anyone strong and smart enough who can be a part of this right now, who could handle this--this hell, this portion of my grand quest in which I I have not killed myself, obviously, to date, in but I am not opposed to a car picking me off, or a bolt of lighting from the sky to take me out. Then again, I am also opposed to this. It's both at once. My friends urge me on. Keep creating, they say, you are here to change this world, you have too much talent in too many areas for them to always hold you back. Something is going to give, somewhere, and then it will go very, very fast. My friends are not friends with each other. Well, I think in spirit, they are. They say their words independently of each other.
They are men, women, they are various ages. They have all seen hundreds of examples of my work, and thousands of pieces of correspondence, both what goes out from me, and what comes in. People have at times voiced concerns for someone caring about me, and wishing to be with me, for the wrong reasons later, but depressing as it is, I often conclude these days that a union is circumstantial. That is, I may be with someone later, I may think the world of her, and yet, there could be a part of me--maybe all of me--that will know that if we crossed paths now, she couldn't handle what happens here, the size of the fight, the scope of the days. All I exist for right now is getting past these people who are doing their damndest to make sure my work is kept separate from the world. Now, that might seem an odd remark, because of how much I publish, but there is so much out there, and people are only going to care about what is talked about. Publishing makes that happen. It says, "Here is a shitty writer, let's all put that shitty writer forward, let's give them awards, anthologies, let's write endless reviews that are lies." You can read something you love, and now, more than ever, people are going to be too lazy to look very far into who created what they loved. But if they know the name going in, well, that takes care of it, and that name is a commodity, and that commodity can be bought and bought and bought. You don't even have to seek it out. It comes to you, is presented to you, as the commodity. And then you know. Then you can acquire more, keep up to date on that commodity's news, etc.
I find that I can't even deal with the most basic exchanges. Someone will ask me what my day was like, and they ask that question with an expectation for the answer. I can't begin to go into the truth. Or at noon on a Saturday someone will ask if I am just getting up and do I have plans for the weekend, when in reality I would have already written 3000 words, ran three miles, walked three, climbed an obelisk a bunch of times, screened two films, sent out thirty letters, and figured out what I was going to be talking about in a few days on the radio. No one, with their cat, still in what they wore to bed, wants to hear that. It makes them feel bad about themselves. And you get branded "intense," which is the slothful, nullity-mired, directionless person's cop-out word to try to cover up their shortcomings by blaming you for living life deeply and passionately and with the driven purpose of a sort of celestial arrow in human form. But you live alone in the quiver, in the air, in your journey to the heart of the target.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope, before this changes--and people like to tell me it can change fast in my world, with what I do, the body of work, my ability, my range--I meet someone great, someone brilliant, dynamic, character-laden, strong, who communicates readily and well. I interact with people. Doctors, lawyers, computer people, professors, company heads, all kinds. And there is just nothing there for me. There is no brilliance, there is no special acuity of mind. There is no passion, no interesting interests, no drive, no wit. It's all the exact same shit. I want to be impressed, I want to be compelled. I want to think that person can be part of history. Not that they need to make history. I don't want your fourth grade acronyms--LOL, LMAO, ROTFL--and I don't want you starting in with your belicosity and a couple of political ravings out of the blue in the first sentence of your grammatically massacred first note.
For almost seven years now it's been just me. I was engaged. Having been ghosted by a wife who was having an affair, who took everything from me, the person in whose hands my life was largely put, at their urging, I was ghosted by the person I was engaged to. It's difficult to believe what has happened over these years. And yet, none of it compares to the completely unbelievable mind fuck that is the corruption of publishing and the evils people will stoop to there to keep out someone who knows their bullshit and how they get what they get done. Everyone knows what I am. That's self-evident. And it's on constant, irrefutable display. Was having a conversation yesterday with someone about how a story of mine that was accepted by Harper's and The Atlantic, then ran by neither, cannot be given away for free to whatever lit mag is out there, that will not pay, that is not read, that is not even sold in bookstores. Because it's me. Because of the successes. Would someone even believe you could have a story accepted by those two venues, that literally no one else will run? That's part of the problem--you couldn't think that's possible, you couldn't think in terms of a polarity like that being something that occurs, because you'd have to learn about it somewhere as having happened first. Who else could it happen to? It is literally impossible that it could happen to someone else. On multiple levels. That's what we're dealing with. Of course, I'll win. Someone "good" will take it, and you know what will happen then? More hate. But: there will come something. The flashpoint. I don't know what it is. It might be this blog or some remark upon it. It might be a radio thing, a TV thing, an op-ed, who knows. And that thing is going to hit and hit hard, and I am going to be front and center, and hands back here in this bog of pestilence will be forced. And, too, people will be exposed for what they are. In some cases, there will be a choice to be made on my part, whether to take what is now available because of the forced hand, or to instead reveal what I know about that person and/or the workings of their office.
But, I'm not here to touch on that too thoroughly this morning. I just wanted to document a few recent encounters, which are typical. They involve different levels of involvement. There is the Bumble, for instance. It's a swipe-based app. The caveat is that the woman has to contact the man first. This means that almost everyone sends a one word note of "Hi" or "Hey," but you might be surprised how many people spell both words wrong. You have a little intro on your profile. Mine says what I do for work--without detail, just the terms--and that I move from the hockey rink to the symphony with regularity, cover 3000 miles a year on foot, am looking for someone with vim, someone compelling to be compelled by. As it was, I had to put a disclaimer not to send me a one word note. It's so obvious I'm not going to be someone who digs you if you are a one word note person. I'm not looking for fucking Descartes. But there has to be a baseline. I'm going down as it is, but I can't go down to the very center of the earth and then past it and out the backside of the planet. There has has to be a stopping point. The insecure and vapid defend the one word thing. "We're not all writers." First of all, almost anyone out there writes better than any person you think is an official writer (certainly when it comes to fiction; many more people do nonfiction well, this is true). But, leaving that aside, we may not all be writers, but need we all be morons? Plus, it's passive aggressive. You say hey, I say hey, then you say what's up, I say nothing, what's up with you, etc. They are waiting for you to pull the sled. This is easy for me, obviously, but it's not what I want, clearly. I want rapport, personality, distinctiveness, the spark of life, the spark of an individual. INDIVIDUAL. What a concept. They're waiting for you to supply everything for them.
Having put up the disclaimer saying please don't send me a one word note, cue 1500 women sending me a note reading "this isn't one word LOL." Fucking fucking fucking fuck fuck fucking. Good bloody fuck. Not one of these people was smart enough to realize they were not the first genius to have come up with this. So, I had to put in a second disclaimer about not making the imbecilic joke that everyone else had made. I said this nicely. Not as bluntly as this. There was a woman today, who shared the name of one of Lear's daughters. Always swipes on me, then loses her nerve to say something. I think we interacted before, but I remember so few of these people, because they say the exact same three things. My mind remembers what is essential to it. And, truthfully, we could text, we could hang out, but if there is nothing to you, and there is nothing from that exchange that can color my mind in a way that fructifies in my art or my thinking--and sometimes a stray aside can blow up into an idea that become a story ten years later; I'll remember that stray aside; my mind catches all it needs--I will forget you a few hours later. I'll actually forget you. I won't remember your name, anything. We can run into each other later, and I will have no clue who you are.
Any conversation with a friend from three years ago, I can completely recreate, down to every last word choice on their part. Anything I hear in music, in a film, perfect recall. My God there are so many stories in full form in my head right now, and I can turn the page, if you will, from three to four and scan down five lines and tell you how many commas are in the sentence there, and I've not even formally written this work yet. I try to give accurate answers without big specifics. Someone asked me how my week was, if anything notable was occurring. How is my week? Would you like to try and answer that to someone if you're me? (By the way: good to go on Washington Post piece on the influence of Alcott's Little Women. First time working with this editor. Went smoothly.) So I said it's been chaotic. "This time of year always is," she informs me. First of all, spare me the platitude, and it's hubristic on top of that to flat out talk for everyone. Just because you had two holiday parties to go to is not the same as having chaos in your life. You work forty-five hours a week, each day looks like the day before, the day after. Nothing really bad happens, you are not battling thousands of people, you are not trying to overhaul aspects of culture and society and sometimes it feels like save parts of the world, and build up new things for the world, too.
And you don't have ten deadlines and a book to write in three weeks and radio and all of the hundreds of letters you send to people each week that they won't respond to, with you knowing, and they knowing, that it's 100% personal, and they knowing that you know. They fear you, they don't want you to get loose in the world because that is going to cost them a lot--their system, their reputations, their jobs, their industry, their precious, precious status quo, their lack of prying eyes/people bearing witness. But it's such a simple, lazy, reductive way of thinking. Anyway, the King Lear's daughter person. She gets the courage up to write me, and she remarks, in a sentence where the syntax breaks down three times and her verbs and subjects do not agree, that she went to the symphony last night and was I there? Now...this was the Pops. The Pops is not the symphony. I shouldn't be annoyed by that, but fuck it, I am. And you have no clue how performances work anyway if you think this way because you are under the impression that your concert was an isolated affair.
This Pops thing is done throughout the month of December. Santa shows up. If you were a symphony subscriber you would not be at every single performance of the Christmas Pops, and it's not the symphony anyway. Then I get the "TGIF LOL." Okay. I'm out. You've destroyed grammar, you don't know how is/are works, you're unclear on what the symphony is, and you've smacked me upside the head with your acronyms. Were this person to learn I had any of these problems with their note, I would be deemed by them a devil-like representative of the patriarchy, when I am, in this context, simply a non-moron with some standards of intelligence. A well-meaning person might say, "Well, perhaps she's very smart, and that comes out elsewhere," and that's fine, you can make that argument, which I wouldn't buy, but it can be made; the person for me is going to have zero problems getting the whole is/are thing right in our first exchange. She just is. (But! Let me say, retroactively to you, love of my life, that while you are reading this in the future, it's your present, and our present, and look how we've leapt across the whole space-time continuum thing to have a moment! Hooray! Hello! Colin out! [Kiss me quick if I'm sitting close by. I'll ask what made you bound down from upstairs like that, and you can say, "I read something in a journal by somebody."]) True, that might mean right now that there is no one for me, especially if I also need them to be brilliant and dynamic and have character and courage. I would never ask you to be able to do one millionth of what I have to do, or to have strength like I have had to have it, like I sometimes feel I am cursed with it. But a world beater in the ken of your world, yes, and more character and courage than the next million people out there. And an open mind. And the ability to grow. Because if you come into my world, you are going to need the former, and it is going to pay out massively, and you are going to become more alive and more human than you would think a human could be, and regarding the latter, you will be surprised to learn how much a person can grow in a single bloody day. Come hang out. A lot changes, quickly.
This second exchange I will share is a fun one. In one of my photos, I'm standing outside of Legal Seafood with my lovely sister Kara. In fact, I think that photo is on the Contact page of this website. I am holding a book under my arm. Along comes a woman, thirty-two. On the Bumble. Grad student. This is rarely a good sign. She asks what the book is. I am not totally certain at this point why she's asking, but I'm, let's say, 80% sure why she is, and I am going to play out my theory. Now, if you are fortunate enough to not have to deal with this kind of thing, because you are out of the pool, as I think of it, and all dried off and somewhere else with your significant other, never having to cannonball back into this slough of despond, you are probably thinking, "I'm sure she was just curious about your book! You might have something in common there!"
Yeah. I can see why you'd think that. But experience is a nasty, nasty mistress. I know better. I tell her that it's a book of interviews with notable auteurs like Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, McCarey, conducted by Peter Bogdanovich, called Who the Devil Made it? She has never heard of it, of course--that's a given--but she goes and looks it up. What she is doing is looking for things to be offended by. That was her agenda straight away. The interviews were conducted over a number of years. A lot of people are interviewed in the book. It's not like Bogdanovich rented out a stadium, filled it with directors, and did the interviews en masse. She says, "It must have been nice to interview each person over many years." Like...Jesus H. Christ. He usually just interviewed each person once, over several hours, and in the end he put all of the interviews together in a book. He didn't keep popping by Leo McCarey's house every Sunday for fifteen years. But okay, minor point. This is not the point she's here to make. She starts going off on me on why I don't have the female version of this book. My book is sexist. That I do not have it's female counterpoint means I am sexist. Then she is upset that the female version does not exist. At least not for the Golden Years of Hollywood. This person could not give a toss about movie history. Do you think she's sitting there studying the films of Ida Lupino? Because I don't. Hell, I would wager a lot that she's never heard of Katherine bloody Hepburn. Judy Garland. You name what famous female film star you'd like from that age. Let alone an auteur.
And this person, four years ago, would never have been coming at me this way. This person, four years ago, would never have been costing herself a potential friend, connection, boyfriend--more on that in a second--what have you, this way. This is someone parroting what they think they are supposed to be all about now, so that they have meaning and ethical importance, which, of course, means you have neither, when you are all about play-acting how you are one of the good ones, as you further isolate yourself from real connection, and play your real part in the devolution of society and its fragmentation.
At this point, I was going to complete my experiment. Figured, eh, might as well, C-Dawg, this will be over in twenty seconds. Now, there are people who know that I climb the Bunker Hill Monument every day. You might make the japing remark to me, "So, have you climbed yet today, Monument boy?" Or you might say, "okay, writer boy, what are you working on this morning?" How do you think I would respond to you? I'd answer you. If you were my friend, even if I wanted to die, which was likely given how things are right now, I'd probably make a joke back, not because I'm happy, but just because it's easy for me to find witty words to amuse you and show that I appreciate, too, you still trying to joke with me, when we both know what is what right now in my life and how painful that is, though you can't know it like I know it. I am keeping alive the bonds of interaction as they would be if I were not in hell. Because I am going to be the first person in human history who writes his or her way out of hell, and I can't lose the memory of what it is like to interact with the people who care about me in the meanwhile from the pre-hell time. Even we only became friends post-hell for me. (Hello, Lisa. As you read these words, you will know what I mean. You probably see no effort in my words when I make you haul with laughter, but there is effort in the sense that my entire being is in the middle of the bluest flames right then as the wit is dispensed.)
It's that way on Downtown, too, when I'm doing all the jokes that seem so effortless. I'm in hell. If a hell were engineered to be the worst torture for each individual--that is, it was made to most efficaciously and specifically and individualistically you with what would cause you, personally, the greatest torment and torture--this would be mine. Knowing I do better work than anyone has ever done, and knowing that the more of it I do, the worse this gets, the more I become bound in the trap, and it controls all. My living situation, my financial situation. Someone trying so hard, and being so false, I would counter, to play devil's advocate that they say, "but a writer can't make millions," would be someone who deliberately misrepresents themselves, for we all know that that is how it is for Joe Average Writer who writes his little movie reviews or her poems, or her micro-fictions, or his steampunk novels, and I am nothing like these people, nor am I like anyone, which is plainer than the sun is hot from my work, its range, this journal, the stories, the radio, and on and on and on, what I've done and what I so clearly can do when I get the opportunity; TV, radio show, film, speaking engagements; I'll host a radio show in the morning, be a talking head on a sports TV show in the afternoon, write another chapter of the novel that night, get the plane the next day to a place like Symphony Hall here in town and do my thing on a stage.
At the same time, I know, and and coming to know more, just how deeply and truly people believe that something is happening here, that this is different, that the level of connection, too, is deeper between artist and audience member; that is because I am offering up truth, and life, not the bilge you usually see that enables the bad habits in people, exploits them in their fears. But the "a writer can't such and such" shit is just ignorant and ignorant on purpose to get a barb out there, or else to run out some old saw that betrays your laziness of thought and either your unawareness of, or hypocrisy in choosing to set aside for the moment, actual facts. There are plenty of people, who no ability, who can only do one thing and in a shitty way that entertains no one legitimately who make a lot of money. Want some names? We'll get to more of those later. And nothing is worse than the knowledge, the absolute certainty, of what I can do, reap, what I can impact, influence, help, if I get past these people. What that means now, what that means in twenty years, what that means in 500 years. And this situation also means smaller things like I can't have a dram of whisky or a potato chip and I have to work out like mad so that I don't have another stroke so that I can keep composing, keep building a historically unparalleled body of work, even as I spend my life begging horrible people to be less bigoted.
I had to create a voluminous diaristic record to put it out there to start attacking back, to start putting out my story. While showing everything else that I was. There was absolutely zero risk in lighting people up and naming names--some doozies are coming up--because everyone knew who I was, and those who were prejudiced against me, who hated me, envied me, feared me, saw me as a threat, knew me as the mirror that proved what they were back to themselves, already had their fix in. That was done. It couldn't get worse. I could either just die, and die in anonymity, or I could fight, and I am not going to die in anonymity. That is not going to happen. If I had to overcome the supernatural and the gods, that is still not going to happen. This is getting done. I don't know exactly how, but this, this journal, this is a part of it, and it, my grand quest, that is, is getting as done as anything has ever been done. If my soul had blood to give I would cut it open with a knife right now, right here, just so I could dip my fingers in and make my mark of truth on this fucking screen.
But I am slightly off topic. I said to this woman, "Well, there's an opportunity for you to do that book yourself, cineaste girl." I knew what was coming next. "I would appreciate it if you don't 'girl' me." Ah, for fuck's sake. That's what she wanted all along, of course. The agenda. They always get around to their bottom line. It takes different forms, but if I had said I was reading Flaubert's letters, believe me, we would have gotten to where we got to. You can boy me if you want. Many Moments More Blog boy. Hockey boy. Beatles boy. Obelisk boy. Ballet boy. Do you think I would care? Not only is it just a joke, it's a trope. We all know the construction. You started really seeing it with 1990s sitcoms. I wonder--could this person be someone's girlfriend? That's girl-ing you, right? Or is that self-girl-ing? When I am at the Starbucks, I hear women of all ages refer to other women as girls. This is different, it's not that trope construction. But I hear it a lot. "I couldn't believe Sally brought that girl the other night." "What does Jack see in that girl? She sucks." "She's one of my best girlfriends, you'll like her." "It's true, I'm a girl who likes a good brunch." This same person would never have interacted--and put someone off, as she completely quashed my interest in seconds--that way three years ago. Most people in 2018 are usually a worse version of what they were in 2012. Men, women. We are back-sliding. Hard. We are also very alone. I sometimes feel like I am less alone than many people who are technically with someone else. And I am quite alone, for the time being.
Walked three miles, climbed the Monument once. Strong pitches to the person at NPR who is supposed to be my new producer, though that's not gone well at all, and USA Today. Beatles for former, an op-ed pitch with latter. I like the new books editor at The Washington Post. Professional. On their game. No begging for the response. Good energy. Nice. Some people just come across as nice.
A friend of mine was on my mind when I walked down the block to Anthony's to get a coffee to walk to Charlestown. When his wife is out at night, I swear it is like he goes to Dunkin' Donuts (we are both big fans) with his two young girls, purchases a Box o' Joe and a twelve pack of crullers with extra-sugar, and they come home and have a raving dance party until 1:30 at night. The other night I'm talking to him, and it's quarter of ten. His oldest is in second grade, I think. And he's flying solo on the Parent Ship just then. (Which means you can hear ice clinking around in a whiskey glass.) The phone rings on the land line. I've never heard this before when we talk. He answers it, and it's the kid up in her room. She's calling from in the house! Actually, that's the premise of Black Christmas. My bad if I just ruined that movie for you. You should still see it. It's good even if you know. She wasn't phoning to say, "O dear, at last the Bogey Man has leapt from the closet and is in the room, this is happening now, what is to become of me, help." She was calling because she wanted him to do something with her iPad. I don't know, man. (I mentioned a little while ago to my friend that I was going to touch upon this, to which he said, "don't tag me at least," not really knowing how blogs work, apparently.) If I had done that, had I the capability, technology-wise, as a kid...um, that wouldn't have gone over so well. The people who knew and loved my father--who was, at the same time, the most loving man I've known--are doubtless laughing right now imagining his reaction. You wouldn't have been repeating the effort going forward. (Unless you were like Evel Knievel.) My friend hangs up the phone--not before saying, "Okay, I'm coming"--and he says to me, "Do you believe this entitled shit? This fucking generation." Ha. Like he has no control over this.
Lately I was talking to a twenty-two-year-old getting her PhD at Harvard in computer science, while dancing at the Foxy Lady. Interesting blend. What happens often is I am asked what kind of writing I do. I don't want to give an answer, particularly. I just say it's kind of extensive. Some push. And push. And finally I say some version of I write books, fiction, I write on art, film, literature, sports, music for most major mags and newspapers, I write op-eds for the prominent op-ed sections, I talk about a lot of these things and other things on the radio. I could add, but don't, that I'm the pariah of an industry despite all of this, hated, blackballed, beating the blackballing but being denied any form of recognition, but I already know that having said what I said--which I did not wish to--that this is over.
People want someone in their ballpark. Most people. Unless it is someone very secure in themselves. That person is not threatened, that person grows, that person offers someone, and themselves, much. But most people don't want someone much smarter, they don't want someone who already intimidates the shit out of them and is making them question if they'll measure up. Which is not what this is about. It's about connection and two people finding union and growing together as something twined, while, simultaneously, helping each other grow and evolve as autonomous individuals, in their lives, their quests, what that may be, whatever the assortment may be. There was a also a forty-year-old scientist. Said she was a scientist right on her Bumble profile, just like mine says I'm an author, before going into the aforesaid stuff, the 3000 miles on a foot a year and all of that. (Though that number will be more like 2000 miles this year; I traded off distance for more obelisk climbs.)
She asked me how I knew the distance I covered, did I have a really effective Fitbit. Do I not know how Fitbits work? Don't they all measure the same? I replied by saying, "Just math, scientist." To which she replied, "What science?" Meaning, she thought I was the scientist. Or an additional one. Despite having seen my profile. Despite having seen the author thing, which she could not have missed if she saw the miles thing. It can be difficult to pinpoint a person's stupidity, such are the choices they present to you. In this case, can you not read and comprehend anything at all? Or, do you have no clue how commas work? If I say, "You should not eat that thirtieth hot dog, Babe Ruth," that means I am offering dietary advice to the Sultan of Swat, not to myself. But even if you leave out the comma, and you screw that up, it still doesn't mean that I'm calling myself a scientist. You see? And then I'm just done. I'm annoyed half a dozen ways over, and it's like, fuck it, this isn't the person you're looking for. I go weeks, if not months, without encountering any intelligence on these apps.