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Black hole theme

Thursday 9/3/20

* The pressures right now are insane. There's so much to do I am having a hard time even knowing what to start on and then dig in with for twelve straight hours. I'm overwhelmed.

* Here is Tuesday's interview on Downtown. It's about anxiety and fear and talismans and books. I don't know what to say about it. I don't know what solutions are, I never know now if I'm doing the right thing. I have no idea for any way out. I guess I just try to be honest and keep getting things done, keep creating. I feel hopeless and overwhelmed. I do feel like this is it for me, often. I don't know if I'm ever doing the right thing because I'm in this black hole where there is nothing else. There's no support, no input, no people, readers, traction. It's just me in the black hole.

* Added to the stack of things to do very quickly, with no margin for error, is that I have to get my Guggenheim application in by Thursday, September 17, which is my birthday. I need to contact people about letters of recommendation/in support. I think I'll ask Bob Boyers at Salmagundi as well. He knows my work well enough, knows me well enough, publishes my fiction and my nonfiction. Right now he has a personal essay of mine he's running about climbing the Monument called "You're Up, You're Down, You're Up," and a short story called "Read the Ice," which is damn good, one of the stories for Longer on the Inside: Very Short Fictions of Infinitely Human Lives. I don't know how close I got last year, if at all. I know everyone was contacted for those letters, which I thought was a good sign. I need the $40K, frankly. Someone who believes in me entered Cheer Pack: Stories, in a competition that has a $15K prize. Cheer Pack has stories from the venues the mucky-mucks otherwise pretend to care about if you're not Fleming, such that if you're in these venues, you can have blank pages and they'll pump it out there with a major. But beyond that, the stories are awesome, it's a Murders' Row of classics, and they all go together well. It's one of the most obvious "this can do good business" things I've had--Meatheads is another--and because of where things stand, this book just sits here with me. I need those kind of quick payments right now. The money situation is terrifying at this juncture. Then you're fixing books, you're writing books, you're chasing work for features and essays and op-eds, then if you get it you're doing it, maybe doing it again. I spent most of Monday trying to get $1350 I was owed from a high circ. venue that goes back a while. You're doing that, you're doing the site, the blog, the radio, new fiction, and it's so bloody crushing and hard right now. And scary. I think fear has become maybe my dominant emotion. Fear with money. Fear for what will become of me. Fear that you could be the best artist ever with a mind no one has ever had and because of that you might be utterly doomed in our world. It's going that way. It's careening that way. I can't pull up the brakes, I can't stop it, I can't make anything I do matter.

* I revised "Fitty" for the third time. I kept all versions. I went through it ruthlessly. Anything that did not advance the story, or develop the characters--no matter how strong the writing--was cleaved. What this mostly meant is that a few sections/scenes went, and Carlene's position, as such, was made more clear at the end. It's probably my story that I am most proud of, in large part because it's the one that moves me the most. The ending is the most beautiful thing I know, really. I ball when I read it. But that kind of balling where you try to hold it back because you don't want to miss a detail of what is happening. There's a savoring of every last syllable. I think I could read that final scene a trillion times and it would never be diluted. The ending mostly stayed the same, but there's something earlier now--not too far back from the ending--that sets it up in another way, with another layer, a strand. It's this line in italics about doing it again, being willing to do it again.

* I think there's a big difference between being nice and being a good person, and I worry that I am not nice. I help people, and I always feel for them--someone can do something pretty bad to me, and then if they need me, if they are really struggling, I never get hung up on what they've done. I feel for them. That can make me a soft touch who can be manipulated and used. But I don't know how patient I am with people. I see a LOL or then for than, again and again, and I just can't deal with that person. I see fakeness and I can't deal with them, I just can't respect them and I can't get through any motions with them. But if I was happier, if I had what I believe I deserve, if i was in my house in Rockport, I wonder if I'd smile, I'd be more on the surface with them, more able to laugh something off, or dismiss it, or just not care and simply be friendly. In that kind of inconsequential way. Maybe it adds up. This isn't to say that I don't look and sound nice, like if one saw me out at the Starbucks. I worry if it's me or if it's simply so hard to be an intelligent person in this world, and a brilliant person or a genius or someone unclassifiable has it exponentially harder. But I'm also so alone, with so little positivity, and I usually blame myself for everything, or many things. It's how I am. I know what publishing is. I know it's all about classism and soulless writing and discrimination. I don't blame myself there. Though sometimes I worry I put too much on some people--the few people here who are decent--with how much I produced. As in, "Oh, fuck me, another story from this guy." I guess I thought you were supposed to make works of great art and the people who could put them out there would wish to see them and not carp about having to see them. But I never have known what to do with that productivity. It was like it should have been a blessing, but it's been a curse.

* Someone sent me a nice note this morning and said I looked insanely young for my age. Her descriptor. She said I must have so many interested woman of all ages, like they were beating down the door. One doesn't say, well, no, I'm all alone, I've been entirely alone for five years. I used to try and be honest that way, but normally I wasn't believed. The feeling was that I was out with one hot twenty-something after another, but it's really just me. I try. But there's so little connection it seems. Everything is surface, no one communicates readily and well, people want to collect compliments, not have connections. And each time you look at a profile you have to decide how much stupidity you can tolerate. Because grammar will be destroyed constantly. Every profile will have the words "out going" as there is apparently no one alive at this point who knows that the preceding signifies direction--as in, I'm making an exit, baby!--and "outgoing" means gregarious. So you stare at the stupidity, you look at the raping of the English language, the cliches, the mind-sucking nonsense about "living my best life" and "live laugh love," and you determine, okay, this person only spelled half the words wrong, that's the best anyone's done in the past five hours, I guess I'll write her. And it sucks. Because you are reaching out to a moron. Is this me being mean? Because it is an actual moron. If you are this way yourself, it's awesome. You have one relevant applicant after another to be your partner in a brainless life. You're never outclassed. Anyone is as good as anyone else for you, just about. So then it comes down to who will have you. There is nothing specific about either of them, nothing different than the rest of the people in this pool. It's a great advantage if you don't want to be alone to be more like these people. Which is to say, like nothing at all, really. I wonder if I am not nice, though, because I think this way when I see these profiles. I think this way often and elsewhere in life. Am I supposed to lie? To think this is awesome and these people are unique and striving forward to grow, and all of that? Because I'd have to be an idiot to think that way.

* There were a bunch of things that came out recently, features and op-eds and fiction and such, some pretty high profile things, and it's been discouraging to see that none of it brought any traffic to the site. As in, almost literally none. It all went down, in fact. More than ever, actually. I don't know how you have an op-ed in a place with a circulation like ten million, and the traffic at your site decreases, but that's what has happened here. For the site and the blog. The numbers for the blog are lower than ever. Obviously that's discouraging, but more than that, it's scary. It truly terrifies me. Usually I can mount an explanation for just about anything, but I don't know how to do that this time. Grim explanations, I mean. I think people don't like intelligence, for starters. It'd be great to be wrong about that, or find a way to reverse that, at least in my own situation, and with what I'm trying to do. The Charlie Parker piece at JazzTimes has seemed to perform pretty well for them. This is the best jazz magazine, by far, but it's still jazz--so it's not like four million people visit the site each month. I don't have their analytics in front of me, but I noticed that they have made a point of re-posting that piece on Twitter more than any other current pieces, and each time they do, it gets more likes than anything, and a high volume of shares. They're clearly reposting it because it's doing well, relative to other pieces. Again, the numbers are small--130 likes for a post, 60 shares (but you might see like 7 and 2 with something else--and I've been there)--and I'm not saying that means anything at all. Could be a fluke, some random quirk having nothing to do with me. I'm just saying the numbers were higher than with the other pieces. But that hasn't brought anyone here. I would think if you're reading JazzTimes, you like good writing, you have interests, you likely have a passion for jazz. But those people aren't coming to this site. Really nobody is coming here right now. What I am doing anywhere, with all of that range of material and venue, is not bringing anyone to this site or this journal. Or, put another way, bringing less people than before. That theme of the black hole again.

* I wrote a story yesterday called "Sunflower Tart." Was fine. For Longer on the Inside.

* Don't want to start losing count of this kind of thing, as it's important. So, this past Sunday marked 1547 days, 221 weeks, without a drink. It's important because if I'm compromising my heart at all right now I'll die from this stress and workload and pressure. Someone told me today that they're skeptical of me because I do not drink. Whatever that means. People are just insane. I produce incredulity because of what I do or do not pour down my throat? Of course, what you see--and certainly it's even easier to see it if you don't drink--is that many people are utterly dependent on drugs and alcohol to function. If you are not, they'll project that on to you. I would say that we are more dependent than ever on drugs and alcohol as a culture. We cannot be alone, straight up, with our thoughts. We need a barrier. We often need multiple barriers at once. The social media byplay, the seven glasses of wine that night. Self-medication is the crutch that props up a lot of our population. And it makes depressed people--which is nearly everyone now--more depressed. I am not depressed. I am lower than a depressed person, but my issues are of the external nature; what I am facing, what is holding me down and back. Change that, you change everything for me, but not in me. Whereas, a depressed person could be in any situation, ill or great, and they'll feel as they feel.

* Have come up with various op-ed ideas: perfect/most prescient Halloween song, Ichabod, do white people now have to be racially performative, the unique 2020 relationship between sports and friendship in post-friendship period, best baseball pitcher/performance ever, shifting Christmas entertainment paradigm, Beethoven, imagination and empathy, humor and literature, harvest festival spirit.

I watched 1949's Criss Cross, by Robert Siodmak. Burt Lancaster is in it. I don't find him a convincing actor. He has a sort of presence, this human steel quality. Dan Duryea is much better. He's one of my favorites from that era. Him and Richard Widmark. Coppola totally ripped off the film for The Godfather, by the way. I can't stand The Godfather. And it looks like it was shot in a dirty fish bowl. Though it is better than The Sopranos, which is sufficiently bad that I howl with laughter whenever I see a scene. It's a cartoon of dopes. The Flintstones was less predictable.


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