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Blood on the tracks and it must be mine

Sunday 2/10/19

I spent eighteen straight hours yesterday at the desk. I am in a war. That was a full day of mustard gas at the front line. A new piece came out in The Washington Post on John Keats, Fanny Brawne, and "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" for Valentine's Day. This line was taken out of it: “'I set her on my pacing steed, and nothing else saw all day long/For sidelong would she bend, and sing/A faery’s song.' This is a horse that is more like a rooster, you might say." That is, a cock. She's riding. Which is what is happening in the poem. Funny line, with the joke that comes (not a pun) to you but wasn't surface-overt. Anyway, I'm sure it was considered too risque. That's okay. I don't mind things like that. There are other times and places. I will always adhere to what someone wants when they are playing fair by me. Your rink, your rules.

A new ballet piece came out today in The Daily Beast. I wrote a Valentine's Day op-ed about reformatting the holiday. How it ought to be centered on friendship, as friendship is the foundation of any true love. Be that between spouses, friends, work of art and viewer/reader/listener. I doubt I'll be able to sell it in time for this year, but it is evergreen for this holiday, this one. One thing that will happen is that when I break through and am past these people, a lot of stories and pieces--even more than now, but, for example, short story after short story--will be appearing lightning-strike style. Zap to that tree, zap to that building, zap to that fishing vessel, zap to that mountain top.

It will be like Revolver, A Love Supreme, Blonde on Blonde, London Calling, Pink Moon, Pet Sounds, Kind of Blue, Sgt. Pepper are all coming out simultaneously, but they're all from one person. And people will ask, "How the hell is this possible?" The answer, in part, will be because my time will be freed up, and composing with the foreknowledge that new masterpiece-A will be seen by x-million people, means I will be composing with joy and my utmost celerity. The other part of the answer is that I will have had a lot of the material prior and ready to go. Work as strong as any I've done--and there's a lot of it, as the updated Roster sheet and stats journal entry reveals--is shelf-ready for market. And it's all so different from work to work, save in terms of quality. Chuck Berry came out of jail in the early 1960s with some amazing songs. People thought he wrote them in jail. He didn't. He wrote them before he went to jail. Then when he was free, he put them out. This is like a lot bigger version of that, only I've done nothing wrong to have a hand in my gaoling.

Today marks 994 days without a drink. Yesterday I remarked quickly to someone as I was dealing with so much flat out nastiness, plots, bile (with the usual scores of incompetence mixed in as well)--it's not something I wish to blow-by-blow account for today, though I made copious notes for a future journal entry this morning--that I could not believe I had not yet returned to the bottle. It's like you can feel, metaphorically, the scar tissue building in your heart, dealing with that kind of animus. It's non-stop, it's from all directions. You are in territory no artist has been in. All you think about is what to do, what the next move is, possible risk and reward.

I am going to write about Anthony Braxton for JazzTimes. A large box. And Salmagundi wants a 1500 word piece on Roma. I asked about my fee. They used a Jackson Pollock piece I wrote for their cover story some years ago, and there was also a personal essay called "A Midshipman Lights Out," which is in Glue God: Essays (and Tips) for Rebuilding a Broken Self. They made no mention of money when I did those and they ran. Then I did a short story for them called "Mint State 87," which is in Cheer Pack, and then I learned about rates. I guess I was wrong to assume they just didn't pay. But the problem was was that I should have had a grand for the two nonfiction pieces. I don't expect that I'll see that now. I like this guy a lot. He's a gentleman. I am not saying this was a case--and believe me, they happen--where someone tried to screw me out of payment. I think it was an honest mistake. So we will see how all of this plays out.

My hair is very long. I have to wear my Vaccines beanie to keep it out of my eyes and from over my ears. Was wearing a maroon Gloucester Fishermen sweatshirt today so it was like an upper-half tribute to the color. This week on Downtown I'll discuss Dylan's Blood on the Tracks--and the More Blood, More Tracks box set--and the Keats piece from The Washington Post as a two-pronged Valentine's segment. I gave thought to a discussion of the Michelle Carter case. Maybe later. What I think we'd need to do with that is craft it into a larger discussion about culpability in our age. I don't believe she should be going to jail. Or, if you prefer: If she is going to jail, then we have to put a lot of people in jail, because you can elect to do or say something to someone that you know might damn near kill them. Saying "go kill yourself" is not more extreme in its potency than an action might be. Than other words might be. Literal words are one thing; but so is choice and motive and knowledge--"If I do this awful thing to them to upend their existence, this might x, y, or z them."

I'm not exculpating her. There was something both of the devil and of a broken, disturbed, sick young woman in what she did. The truth is, there is so much evil and selfishness and deadly amounts of non-empathy like that that there are far too many people in this world than you could ever stuff in prisons. It's so simple and reductive though--just words. Straight up literal words. That abnegates the power of context, it makes justice a boilerplate and a matter of ringing the bell of the right words. It legally then allows even worse things, provided the language is not simple, basic, direct, the ringing of the bell. The devil more comfortably lives in greater details. Our law is often not interested in greater details. It's interested in first blush and pull quotes. I talked to USA Today about this, but they wouldn't let me do it. I am sure they found it too controversial. Which is a shame--the thing that an editor is scared of, is often the thing that the public needs to hear, that goes over well, and spreads, and has impact. Can do social good. Editors almost always err on the side of what they view as low risk. That's one reason you end up with a lot of paste that you don't remember having read right after you've read it.

The over-the-top luridity approach is not dissimilar. I mentioned that "all Patriots fans are White Nationalists" piece recently. That's a cartooning. You know it comes from a person with their own issues, who wants attention. They don't believe what they're saying, there is no heart in it, and it's not well-argued. You take it no more seriously than when Wile E. Coyote gets an anvil dropped on his head in a Roadrunner cartoon. But here is the truth: Say the truth, mean it, with heart and head, and say it better than anyone else in the world say it, and nothing bad will happen to you as a result of what you wrote. Not right now. You can be a leader of men and women, if you do that. You will lead. The problem will be getting it out there in the first place, and then getting that spark that makes the wildfire happen. Often, the better expressed something is, the more it is left alone. Because people know they're not able to repute or even agree at length without sounding nowhere near on the level of what they've taken in. They are risk adverse, more and more so, as we are less about reality, more about stagecraft, less about who we truly are--or were, as we devolve--and more about what we can get people to think--and who cares if they're wrong--we are. They don't want to risk looking stupid. Outmatched. So those who agree can often do it in isolation. Agreeing deeply, and as wholeheartedly as is possible for them. But they're going to wait to talk until they see others doing it.

Anyway. Wars get won.

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