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Assorted exercises

Monday 1/4/21

I slept late this morning--until 5. I must have needed the rest. Fell asleep during the fourth quarter of the Washington-Philadelphia game. That's great for Alex Smith. Fixed that story, "Chore Age," from Saturday. I'm very happy with it. More on that anon/below. Received a nice note from Kimball from saying that I compel him to raise his game and that he hopes he gets an invite to Rockport when I get my house back. That was kind of him. It bothers me--because how couldn't it?--that all of these radio appearances, which I know are at a matchless level--and beat the bag, quality-wise, out of what anyone else is doing on the radio--lead to nothing anywhere else. There should be job offers. The offers of gigs. I also know that nothing is merit-based. Rather, merit enters into it after the fact, after you have the position or platform, because it's merit that makes for legs. The legs of your work, the legs of your voice. Nothing has legs like my work or voice, but the problem right now is that the legs are in the box, so to speak.


But of course I'd like nothing better than to wake up in my house in Rockport, compose, go for a walk to the beaver pond or out to the cliff over the sea, knowing that the likes of Kimball, or my nieces and nephew, or Aaron or someone would be visiting later in the day. These are the kind of things I daydream about, what I think about when it's so hard to keep going.


Watched The Stone Tape this morning. Listening to Billie Holiday's Commodore output now. That's the label she recorded "Strange Fruit" for. You get Holiday at Columbia, Commodore, Decca, Verve. She's different at each stop. The Commodore sides, on the whole, are slower, her voice more direct and less vaporous than on the Deccas. Let's put it this way--the Commodore recordings are diamantiferous--they'll cut glass--whereas the Deccas are opalescent. They shimmer and bend colors.


Yesterday I wondered aloud on Twitter if Matthew Slater is a future Hall of Famer. He's the best special teams player I've seen. His play had a correlation to championship-level success. So I say yes. Aaron Rodgers will win the MVP, Josh Allen will come close, but I don't know if anyone had a bigger impact than Brady. He overhauled that entire franchise. His stats are a touch misleading--I don't think he had that crisp, command of the season as I've seen him have in the past. But you have a team that hasn't reached the playoffs going back to 2007. Think about that--the Red Sox were winning the World Series that year with Mike Lowell as MVP. That's how long ago that was. You're talking hardcore moribund. Tampa will be a dangerous team. The Packers should come out of the NFC, the Chiefs the AFC, but Tampa v. Chiefs or Bills would not shock me. Brady against Mahomes would be neat. I think Mahomes dipped a tiny bit this year. I assume that has to be the end of the Cam Newton era in Foxborough. Seems like a nice guy who tried. But he just doesn't have it. The worst Patriots starting quarterback of my lifetime, and when enough time has passed that people can understand his season, that season will be looked at as one of the worst a quarterback has had in this salad days of salad days era for the position. Because it is now freaking easy to play that position. Everybody, near about, puts up insane numbers that are like prime Dan Fouts numbers, a guy who would be like the eighteenth best quarterback in the league right now. The entire game is designed to make the stats of the quarterback look good. Say anything else about Newton, and I seriously question your agenda, and think your motivation might stem from very bad things indeed. Also, some of the worst throwing mechanics you will ever see. A multi-part, jerky release, with the ball taking an age to come out. Painful to watch. Having said that, the blame for the season doesn't go primarily to Newton. If Brady was on that team, they'd have gone 9-7 or 8-8, and he would have complained the entire time, chewed out his teammates, and it would have been miserable. Tetchy. This wasn't tetchy. It was just a bad, inept football team, with a coach that must have known that's what they were going to be, which baffles me all the more that this was the quarterback decision. The best player was the punter. The second best player the journeyman field goal kicker. Also, Stephon Gilmore is no longer a number one cornerback. People think he is. Sell high. And do not be fooled by a few competent games by the brittle and pedestrian Sony Michel. I felt like J.C. Jackson was better last year, despite his interception totals. I don't put a lot of stock in interception totals. His coverage was tighter last year. But he was one of your only reliable guys. And it's embarrassing when a team can't stop the run at all. You can't stop the run, you're not going anywhere, no matter what else you have.


Exercise time.


***


Ran a mile and a half, walked a mile and a half, did ten hill sprints. Hill sprints aren't easy. The advantage is I don't have to go far, and one need not do them for long. All of this is part of writing. So as to be able to withstand the situation these people have me in and keep going, and for when I get past them and to where I am going, because then I'll have fifty years of the best life in front of me, but not if I'm not healthy enough. This is total dedication of every second of every single year. Every single last thing is for one purpose. There is not so much as a second away from the purpose. I am being literal, because that is the literal truth. I wonder if it's even possible for a person to conceive of that kind of dedication. If I relay that I have seen a portion of a game, one must realize I'm doing twelve other things at once, plus everything in my head. I'm sitting on some couch shoveling popcorn into my mouth, my feet up. That would never happen here right now, even if I had a living space where that was possible. Every single thing I watch, listen to, read, it's all with a purpose, for the purpose. It's never "oooh, this would be fun to hear." What these people have done to me has taken even the specter of a moment's pleasure or enjoyment from life.


Reading Edmund Wilson's Patriotic Gore. I'll be writing a Civil War novel about aliens and ghosts and race. I don't know when.


I looked at Meatheads for the first time today. Had never even seen it. It's too depressing, knowing you have a masterpiece--of various stripes--that could do so much in the world and an entire industry suppresses any coverage. But it looks nice. The size is nice. Nailed the cover.


I found an extra copy of Gail Grant's Technical Manuel and Dictionary of Classical Ballet. I'd send it to somebody--I don't need two--but I can't imagine who'd be interested.


Listened to another five-part episode of Johnny Dollar, "The Lorcoe Diaminds Matters," which aired 11/7-11/55. Some tart lines--with noir crackle--but not one of the more artful installments.


I have no respect whatsoever for whining, moralizing writers--most of whom owe their entire careers to a lack of morality--doing their "holier than thou" thing with the Hall of Fame. Yes, obviously Curt Schilling is a Hall of Famer. Grow up and get over yourself. And how obtuse and naive do you have to be not to realize the very real, and far worse transgressions, that so many people in this world, and the Hall of Fame, are guilty of? You don't like someone's politics? Or they made a bad joke about writers? How do you feel about adultery? That's cool? Because that seems far worse to me. Hypocrites. Naive, ignorant, narcissistic hypocrites. People with little in their lives, and no talent, need to take simple things or things that are not things, and try to blow them up. I'll help you out with the Hall of Fame. Manny Ramirez--cheater, and also one of the best right-handed batters to ever live. The latter gets you in. It's a game. It's not important. You have this silly institution called the Hall of Fame. Say that to yourself. The Hall of Freaking Fame? It sounds like a cartoon. I'm Captain Midnight. Oh--I'm Mr. Hall of Fame! Put in the best players. If you're close, eh, in you go. I was listening to an interview with a baseball writer, and he sniffed, "I'm not putting in Schilling because he made a joke about hurting writers and it wasn't funny." Dude, who cares? What was funny was when this guy was asked a question early on in the interview, he started to answer with the pronoun "We." Now, no one else would have noticed this, but it told me a lot about this man. The locked-arm approach to thinking. The crony method. This is supposed to be some expert? If you're not voting for Curt Schilling, then you should resign from ever voting, because that means that you know nothing about the biographies of the men in the Hall of Fame. And if you do, why aren't you pitching a fit, Mr. Morals? Why would you want to be associated with a museum that could double as a museum for guys that did a lot of really bad things? (But any grandstanding necessary to score a political point.) Kant would hate people like this. Personally, I could care less about Schilling as a person one way or the other. You're evaluating people for what they did in a game. Someone wants to cite the morals charge, in which case, void the entire Hall of Fame. How many of those guys do you think didn't fuck someone else who wasn't their wife, and a lot? You think Mickey Mantle was a better guy than Schilling? Mantle was a bad dude. Mantle was a boozing, hurtful, hump-anything-that-moves monster. Can you imagine the real emotional damage that Mickey Mantle did to the people in his life? Also, an underrated ballplayer, somewhat. And a player ahead of his time. Bonds and Clemens should also be in. I don't want to hear about Scott Rolen until Ken Boyer, who was better, gets in.


Also, as a rule of thumb, little in this world is less interesting than someone, on either side, talking politics. A smart person does see, though, how prejudiced politics and political agenda makes most people. Few are able to remain un-blinded by that which they bleat about. Takes away your objectivity. When that goes, so goes your reason, so goes chunks of your cognitive ability, so goes your equanimity in other areas. You start to shrivel up as a person. You think you're just talking politics, but it bleeds into so much else. The decisions you make against people that have nothing to do with their qualifications. People are lousy at separating things. Most people begin their thought processes--and many end there--with their feelings. It takes so much mental discipline to completely put your feelings aside and cogitate. People can't even say, "This is my favorite Beatles record, but I think they have at least seven or eight better ones." Nope. My favorite = best. That's not cogitating. And that's a very simple, easy thing.


This is a letter I sent today to the gang regarding "Chore Age" and more:


I don't like to get in the habit of ranking things, or telling you or anyone what stands out to me, because I think that's an unwise, fruitless thing to do with my work, given that I believe I am alone among artists in terms of everything going to the same qualitative height and level (despite often being so different, so radically, extremely different, in form and style), and me saying "oi, this one is special," can be prejudicial, and that's not what I want to be, because it interests me greatly to see people have an extreme reaction to something I never think twice about or don't remember after the fact (for the simple--and complex--reason that I am built/designed to create and move forward, not sit and savor, not rest on laurels).


That's a good reminder for me, that I should never value anything I create at this point over anything else. People who know me know that I might feel about "Fitty" and "Girls of the Nimbus" a different way (and "Fitty" is a story that could actually impact and change a lot in the world), and very recently "The Nookery"--which is a funny statement, because I think "Nimbus" is from December--but how people respond can also be useful to me because that's about all that causes me to go back and look again. (Or when something needs to be fixed, as with "Fitty" in September when I put it into its final form.)


When that happens, I'll behold a work that staggers me. That can give me a bit of a push to push the work harder, or just a reaffirmation of the knowledge that it's truly special, as landmark as any of them.


Having said all of this, and having said what I don't like to do, I'm going to do just that. This is the work that was written on New Year's Day, called "Chore Age." It's for Longer on the Inside, and it's one of those that get to me the most. I think, too, it perfectly encapsulates what that book is about, the unique power that it has. It's all of 750 words. It's perfect. There's so much to relish and savor in this work, as in all of them. The delights of the line-level that are so much more than delights of the line-level. This story makes me weep by the end. In part because of what we know. What we've learned. What we feel on this person's behalf. How we empathize. But also because of the sheer beauty. All of the senses have been pushed to the max. Smell, sight. Tactility. The imagistic. Memory. You can feel the futurity, too.


And you know what, man? I have nothing to do with these people. This is not my life. These people are entirely invented, and yet they are more real than blood. I feel this compulsion to know them, to sit with them, talk to them, watch them, speak to them, hug them, go to bed at night knowing that they are out in the world. That is how they exist. Or that's how they exist for me. I think they can exist that way for a lot of people.


But yeah--this is a good one. It's insane that this is 750 words long. It's like we've been talking about--there is no one with a clue who can call this a short. This is a different kind of writing.


Rather than scrounge around looking for images to accompany a journal post, sometimes going forward I'll just put up an image of a painting I like. This is Winslow Homer's Cannon Rock (1895). It reminds me of when you clamber down the headlands at Rockport and lodge yourself in one of the nooks between rocks that makes you invisible to anyone above and puts you right at sea level but on on hard ground. The spray shoots up and gets you wet. That's a feeling I look forward to.