You can put anything else, by anyone else, next to anything I do. And the takeaway, to the objective party, or even the agenda-driven one, will always be, can only be, the same. It's simply what things are, and how they are. It's not subjective. That is all long gone, those kinds of notions. You can't do "It's not quite right," you can't do "It sucks." You can't play that game. You just can't even go there, no matter how much you might hate me, without people knowing your agenda and bias. You can say what you are going to say, no matter how ridiculous or unconvincing you are. But you will know what you are seeing as soon as you read any of it. As for the "not quite right" thing, which is a lie and a copout here, and which fools no one: I have every kind of every thing there is--in spades--and all of the other kinds of things I've invented. Almost all writers have one kind of thing and a very narrow kind of thing at that. It's like a thin slice of a thing. Every damn time. That same thin slice every time. And that is all they will ever have. So, yes, in that case, with that thing that is also mediocre at best, "not quite right" can fly. The thing they do may not align with the thing that someone else is putting out. But not here. Over time, it only means that you are up to no good. I know it, they know it, they know I know it, and that anyone would know it, and that makes them angrier still at me. Ironically.
1983 was a great year to be a Carlton Fisk fan, and fall in love with what it means to be a catcher. Fisk was having a career resurgence. He’d left the Red Sox following the 1980 campaign, after Red Sox management failed to send him a contract postmarked by the proper date—the deadline—in these matters. This meant that Fisk became a free agent via office inefficiency and neglect, or passive aggressive ambivalence. Feeling scorned by the team for which he’d grown up rooting, where he was a hero of a region—for reasons we’ll plumb momentarily—he headed west, reversing the number 27 he wore with the BoSox to number 72 with the ChiSox. I liked learning that—it struck me as such a New England thing to do, a real Colonial attitude, and later as downright Hawthorne-esque. A flip of the “don’t tread on me” bird.
From his visage and body language, you could tell that Fisk was a no-nonsense backstop. He was tall, muscular, thin, and he moved with a leonine regality. Here was an elegant throwback, but to what I wasn’t sure. Courtly manners? The stone walls put up by eighteenth century farmers that one could still find in the woods behind our house? Or the ways of the Old West and the gunfighter code, as manifested in the kelp-colored, rounded hills of New England that I also loved so much?
We used to visit the Old Man in the Mountain, up in New Hampshire where Fisk was from, which was an outcrop of rock peering out from the Whites, with a weather eye literally made of stone, until the elements finally caused the man to give up his granitic ghost and come crashing down in a heap of rubble in 2003. His near-unmalleable profile made me think of this catcher whose rookie card I had obtained in a card shop on a family vacation to what I regarded as this magical spot, with amusement parks such as Story Land and Santa’s Village. I remember the dealer at the card shop looking down with my dad and me at the Fisk rookie in the display case, and commenting on its $16 price tag: “That’s the expensive one,” he said. And not to depict this wide-eyed iteration of boyhood Colin as an ungrateful kid, but I found myself thinking, “That’s it? It’s Carlton Fisk’s rookie card!”
If pinecones were dollars, that card—to me—would have been worth every last one of them that was stashed, hanging, or had fallen in those Berkshire hills.
Ran 3000 stairs. Did fifty push-ups. Think I will get in some more now.
Walked five miles, did fifty more push-ups. Went all the way out to the MFA, but it was closed. It's now closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. That is strange. A summer thing, perhaps? Hasn't been this way before.
I am tempted to include the Fisk piece in You're Up, You're Down, You're Up: Essays on Art in Life and Life in Art. I will have to think. I'll have to see. I have to finish it first. I don't want to be putting things in books because of the situation I am, where I try and cram things in, because an entire industry is trying to limit my kicks at the can. I will prevail. The books are sacrosanct. Their quality comes first, always. I believe that I abide by this. I didn't put "Swoony and Moony" in There Is No Doubt; I put the "I'm Down" piece in Just Like Them. It's case by case. My feeling right now is that this Fisk piece could be an addition to You're Up. Everything is about the book. How the book works as a book. I also need to write this long feature on Thelonious Monk for JazzTimes and do it quickly. I baked myself in the sun today--didn't drink enough at any point, and I was hurting by the time I got back. I immediately took down about two liters of water, one of them from my container with the floating lemon chunks. I composed a letter that I don't want to send that I will have to send. It's the principle of the thing. I am not going to sit back and allow someone to discriminate against me indefinitely. You can receive the letter. You can do the right thing, the obvious thing to do, going by the quality of the work. You can choose to do nothing. You can then go up on this blog, and everyone can see you for what you are. It's been years with this person, and I know what she's all about. I want to go over it some more, but I am floored by "The Bean Pole." There has not been anything like it. 154 words, and it's so full. It is truly no short-short. It's not some vignette. It's not Lydia Davis BS. It's not micro-fiction. It's so haunting. You could talk about this story for hours. I just keep expanding into things. I'll come back to it again, and see where it stands. There are many stories I'm doing that with right now. What did I just write, ten new ones? Here is tonight's Downtown segment, which was about a bunch of neat Sherlock Holmes matters as well as hockey and catchers. Look at this paragraph, man. Oh, book about all female stories, oh, Beatles book, oh, sports piece, oh, jazz feature, oh, Sherlock on the radio, oh, essay collection, oh, new kind of fiction. These people do not have a sliver of a bone of a leg to stand on with what they are are doing to me. I channel the overwhelming rage--a rage unlike any other rage--that anyone else would feel with any of this, let alone all of it, this total discrimination, which would completely stop them from being able to function, save to attack and try to destroy, in whatever forms that took, into my focus. Which is what it becomes a part of. You could burn me alive, revive me, and burn me alive every day, for years, decades, all because I was things you could never be, and I would not allow anger to compromise my focus if that meant I wasn't going to beat you in a way in the end that went beyond anything that people think those words mean. So I remind myself: Total focus. Matchless art. No mercy when we get there.
Mystery guest. What the hell was that. I will explain why that irked me as it did, as well as the insane note from the insane person in Chicago, because they're both indicative of a larger problem that I encounter all the time, and which needs to be solved if I am going to get where I intend to. In and of themselves, the people behind these examples are meaningless. It's obvious what they are, and that is not worth further discussion. But take the show. Someone saw something I wrote on Judy Garland. Because an entire industry has blackballed me--which hasn't stopped me from publishing like ten things lately--and wants to suppress any chance of recognition for me, this guy wouldn't have heard of me. He didn't come to the piece with the songs of praise about me in his ears. That informs the reading experience with a lot of people. I believe that you're going to read what I wrote and you will know it for what it is. It's just too different, and it's that much better than anything else. You can't even compare. But minus the praise, the recognition, the awards, the fame, the household name, how that experience is reported on, spoken of, shared in conversation--especially with me--changes. People who like me can't say something honest to me that's positive about me because they're too intimidated by me. Not because of what I do to them--but because of my mind. They worry it won't be good enough, sound smart enough, accurately depict their awe, etc. So they say nothing, or they say something stupid and deliberately conservative. Back to the mystery guest dude: it's just one person with an experience and they don't have outward validation--which they often require--from people who have expressed having had the same experience. The rules of everyone else will then be applied to me. This guy will assume I am some journalist, which is not at all what I am. He'll think I happened to know about this one thing, or, more likely, some editor reached out to me, a journalist, and said, "Want to look up Judy Garland and write a piece on here?" This flies in the face of the quality of the work and the depth of expertise, but again, it's some dude out there on his own as a reader. If I was this all world stud, he'd know about me, the thinking goes. Because people have no idea how it works, which is one of the many reasons for this journal. And realistically, who else could this happen to? This could only happen to the best artist there is. If you're getting somewhere in publishing as it stands today, here's what I know about you: You suck at writing. You are connected. You come from money. You are mediocre at best. You are achievable. You write nothing that will last. You have no expertise. No insight into life. Everything you write is the same. You write very little. You're connected and people who don't care at all about your work praise you, because you're nothing. And nothing is very non-threatening. If you were any good, if you had anything original to say, you'd be bounced out of this system. You wouldn't last. You'd always be fighting upstream. Alone. So not only would you have to be a great writer, and that would mean writing things unlike what everyone else who sucked and who was being awarded and feted was writing--the Laura van den Bergs of the world--you'd have to have a strength people don't have in this life. And this would require years and years of the fight. With no validation. No support. If you made progress, people in the industry would resent you. The more progress you made--even to the point that you were asserting and proving and embodying real greatness; if you got to that point; and if you soared past it--the more they would resent you. Who is going to do that? How could you? Then there's me. And it's just me. So really, this is a drama of one, of huge stakes and consequences. But it's not like I'm the Beatles and I have all of these other bands, of varying degrees of quality, with their guitar-bass-drum line-ups, who are being wrongly kept from what could be theirs, and they're all ready to go. Those decent writers I just described all quit. Or: people who might have become decent writers quit before they ever got to that point. They became something else. The Beatles led a revolution, but they had helpers behind them. Those other bands. It might be the Swingin' Blue Jeans and Gerry and the Pacemakers, but it was also the Rolling Stones. This here? This is going to have to be a revolution of one. Then things change, and writers with ability will be able to write, remain as writers, and grow. But that is only if the revolution happens. That's what every day is about here, man. It's not like some childhood dream. It's so much bigger. And it's real.
Also: because the piece was so good, that person is going to conclude I do nothing else. You don't think Connor McDavid is the best pianist in the world, too, do you? It would never enter your mind as a possibility. He's the best hockey player. But there's nothing like me. And people are not only not prepared for that, their brains aren't even wired to begin to think in the terms in which I exist and do what I do. In theory they cannot even go there. It's like a color--a universe of colors--off the spectrum that they have no idea about, and never think might be out there. They know the colors they know, and those are the colors. But this person comes to my site. And so much of it is in front of them. And they still can't see it, because they won't even look in terms of actually looking, or they look with closed eyes, so to speak. They've settled on what they've settled. Me getting to where I am going is predicated on people seeing me for what I am, and that is something beyond the furthest edge of their ken as what a writer, an artist, a human being can be. What I am describing with this guy is how it usually goes. So he wants me on his show. On this site are hundreds of hours of sound of me talking. What this essentially tells me is he wants me on his show, and he didn't bother to listen, because he thinks I'm like everyone else. And everyone else sucks at talking. There are very few people--and I'm trying to be delicate here--in the world right now, as a guest, who are any good at being a guest. Not on TV, not on radio. Go and listen to a segment I do, and then listen to a segment anyone else does. No comparison. That's not my fault. That's just reality. Take it up with reality if that angers you.
If you listened to a segment, you'd listen to more, because you'd wonder where it ends. What doesn't this guy know, what isn't he an expert on, how does he talk as well as he does? What's the edge going to be, the jokes, the stories he has, the anecdotes, the words that can make you cry, the words that make you howl with laughter, the words that pump you up, the words that get you through? Then you wouldn't want me to be one of ten guests--and these nine other guests would be boobs who can barely talk. You'd want me to be the show, if you were so lucky to have me agree to do that, and you'd wonder what the hell was going on that you didn't know about me until now. Then you'd dip into this journal, you'd read the books, you'd read the pieces, and you would come to know what is happening. Then there was the genius out of Chicago. Same idea. Now, he's a revolting racist who uses his kids as race-baiting props, and also a sub-literate moron. Clearly. But you know what? If you're going to come for me, write something that doesn't make you look like you're drunk out of your mind, at best. And maybe look a little further. We know how stupid you are, but how lazy are you? And realize, "Oh my, this is guy literally wrote a book on the Civil Rights Movement. He writes about all of these Black artists, more than anyone else, better than anyone else. He published a brilliant piece on George Floyd. He's the Billie Holiday guy." These people are not even good at sucking. That bothers me. If your thing is to suck, do a good job at sucking, I guess? You can't even be good at being bad at something?
Again, I'm depending on people being able to tell what I am. That also means being open, and putting forth a little effort. This is a huge obstacle right now. I get painted with the brush used on everyone else. If I was what I am, or merely just notable, people would know about me. They'd hear about me. That's how people think. No one would ever think that something like what is happening could happen. They don't think period. They think the world works in this very simple way. And they're not that invested anyway. Meanwhile, the most significant real-life drama there's been is playing out here daily. This is real. And I think the stakes cannot be overstated, for culture, society, the world. This journal charts the battle in real-time. The work is beyond these pages, beyond anything, and is what the fight is for. I believe that that fight matters for everyone, because of what that work is and what it can do. This isn't some lark or some dream I have or some goal. It would not be possible to be dedicated like I am to anything less than what this is, and what these stakes are. I think that's self-evident from these pages.
So far as entries on here go, that one titled "Buttoning" was one for the ages, I'd say. That was a good one. This is a good one, too.
Also: walnuts. Great snack.