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Avuncular

Wednesday 1/6/21

My niece who will be five this spring decided she wanted to make a drawing to send me. I told her how much I loved her artwork--I'm always quite vocal on the subject. So, she makes the drawing, and then she tells my mom--whose house she was over--that she wants to wrap it. My mom tries to explain that you can't really wrap a piece of paper, but I guess this response wasn't acceptable. She really wanted it wrapped. The Christmas card I mailed to her on 12/21 still has not arrived, though the ones for her sister and brother have. Her brother's has been stashed away because as my sister said, she's a sensitive little girl and would feel left out. She's smart, artistic, funny, sensitive, and likes to collect things, so naturally I have a soft spot for her.


I've had an uncle who has meant a lot to my life, who I've always looked up to as a person. He had a tragic loss at an early point in his own life, but he remained the good man that he was. Maybe he became more of a good man as a result, over time, I don't know--I wasn't around when he experienced his tragic loss. He was the first person who took me into the woods, showed me how to mark my way, though I would imagine he wouldn't recall this. But it was important to me. It still is. Without the woods and nature, I'd be a different artist, a different person. He gave me my first car when I was a teenager, and I spent a lot of time in that car, listening to music, thinking. And that played a role, too. Then when my father died, we had a memorial service out here in Boston, after the funeral in Chicago. I was twenty-five. I wrote something, but I couldn't read it, which I'm ashamed of now. I should have done that myself. But the truth is--and this hardly seems fathomable now--I used to be scared of public speaking. When everything happened with Molly, I changed so much, and I had a new understanding of fear. Some things that I used to be scared of became things I'd never be scared of again. I could walk into a stadium filled with people now and talk and my heart rate wouldn't even go up a beat. But that's not how I was then, and my uncle read what I wrote for me. And it meant a lot to me, because as a person, like I said, he was someone I looked up to. His morals, integrity, character. Like my father. Dan Wickett is that way, too. People I think about as in "What what they do? How would they handle this? What would they make of this? What can you learn from how they behave and who they are?"


Listening to Billie Holiday's Columbia sides now. It's a lot of material to go through--230 songs. Watched the USA v. Canada World Juniors gold medal game last night--or some of it. Kept falling asleep. Bunch of Boston College players and Boston area players in general. Not especially surprised by the result. Lot of NHL talent on both rosters, but team USA had the jump from the start. Looked like a team that wanted to prove something and knew they could.


Time to compose.


***


Finished a chapter of the Scrooge book, have begun the next. Fixed a short story called "Billie Now." Damn powerful. The story takes the form of a mother who's tasked--maybe in a joking way, but also a partly real way, which she rises to--by her daughter with a homework assignment of sorts--like they both have these little write-ups they have to do--on why she really named this daughter of hers after Billie Holiday, beyond "my crazy old mom really loves jazz," as the mother puts it. Beautiful story. I don't see who could write something like this. I don't see how it's possible. To do this much in this few words--it's for Longer on the Inside--and imbue it with the humanness, and to have this level of knowledge of jazz and transmute that into a story that it's ultimately in service to, I honestly don't think anyone else could even make a bad stab at this. And you have to know too much about too many things, including life. The mother starts telling this story by talking about a time period people tend to prefer with Holiday, but how she likes this other record from this different period, and that leads us back to this association she had with her old college thesis advisor, who'd have her over to his house for a meal on Sunday with him and his wife. The thesis advisor won't listen to Holiday after a certain year. The woman observes the couple, and a lot comes out. After dinner, the wife goes to bed, and the woman--very young woman at this point--goes into the den with her advisor where he listens to music. And this discussion takes place that is more than it might seem, and one time he has a proposal of sorts. But it's all tied back to Billie Holiday, and temporal notions of nowness, and travel, with redefinitions of ideas we otherwise take for granted, or look at in ways that might actually be very far from accurate. The woman leaves, and she goes back home where roommate--again, she's in college--asks her a question that is this kind of running gag they do, but meaning is cleaved in two, because the joke for the roommate isn't a joke at all for the young woman, who has a different understanding, a different wisdom, because of a certain Billie Holiday record that the advisor would never listen to, save when she plays it during those post-prandial den sessions. Then it goes back to addressing the daughter--sort of wrapping up this little homework assignment--and it's such a beautiful thing to say to her, capping this account of how she got her name. Which is about far more than a name.


I ran three miles, and wrote huge chunks of a book on that run. I went to the cafe and read some of John M. Ellis's The Breakdown of Higher Education and Russell Kirk's 1961 ghost story novel, Old House of Fear. Someone is waiting on a book proposal from me--but not an arduous one to do--for what would be a volume looking at why Joy Division matters right now in our world. I very much want to do this and I hope they give me the go-ahead. Anyway, I made some notes for that. If I work really hard over the next four days, I can achieve a lot.


As for the stuff in the Vulture article, a note to self: Don't give in to the despair that naturally comes from the knowledge that no one is going to do anything for you in this industry, unless they absolutely have to. That is, when you're in the position where you have all the leverage, force all of the hands, or the ones you wish to have forced. Success happens a certain way. But the way it will have to happen for you, and the way it will happen, will be an entirely new way. A way it's never happened before. You're bigger than all of this. Try to not think of yourself as some fucked, doomed, tragic artist, because that's not you. Just about anyone else can read that piece and understand how nothing could ever happen for them. You need so many people working on your behalf, with your garbage. But you are not those people, and you have gifts infinitely beyond anything they have. Those gifts will pay off, and pay out, in your lifetime. Don't compare yourself to anything that has ever come before, in terms of paths to success. Your path is entirely your own. Have faith that it will take you to where you wish to be. You do something better than anyone has ever done anything else. It's going to work. But it's not going to work the way it's always worked. You're here to change the world. And if that's really true--and it is--then this isn't going to be about a system doing for you what it does for others. What is in you and your work is bigger than any system. Your way will come. Have faith. As many moments as it takes, sir. The day will come. Your day will come.


Saw this poster on Facebook. It's Lance Parish, a favorite catcher of mine. 1980s baseball posters could be cool, if silly.