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Catch up: Dante, second novel, pieces, radio, stories, death, trying

Wednesday 8/19/20

* I have been too beaten down, too exhausted, to write in these pages. When you're in high school and you first read Dante's Inferno, the teacher makes a big deal about the "abandon all hope ye who enter here" line. I don't think the teachers really know what the line means, the gravity of it. I don't think they feel it. The line is predicated on a kind of experiental access. It's as though you've had to go to a place where you knew or are knowing the absence of hope, measured what life is when hope is present against when it is not. I know I just thought the line was neat. Spooky. I didn't look at it like Dante had hung this imprecation of imprecations overhead. But now I know. Sometimes people--the same people who think they are busy and have no idea what it means to be busy--will say that the most important human commodity is time. It's not. The most important human commodity is hope. People take their own lives not because of an absence of time, or even love. Or even a single damn person who cares about them. They take their own lives for an absence of hope.

* Let's just do this fast, with the bullet point-style. I have little hope myself, if any. But this is a historical record, and I don't want it to lag too much while I have some say.

* Sunday marked 219 weeks, or 1533 days, with a drink. On Saturday I walked twenty miles and ran the BC stairs ten times after sitting on my ass for a week at the desk because I was too overcome with pain and hopelessness to even force myself to move. Walked five miles Monday, ran three yesterday. The weekend before this past one I ran the BC stairs twenty times in a single go, which was my personal best. I noted the time that morning. Between 5 and 11:40, I wrote an entire short story ("Lift Off Girls"), watched half a film, walked ten miles, ran 5200 stairs, put up three entries on here.

* This is a personal essay that ran in The Smart Set on the impact that moving--as in relocating--had on my family.

* This is a piece on a new Ornette Coleman book for JazzTimes.

* Last week I wrote an op-ed on the flag. I wrote a lengthy piece about the best concert ever given in North America. I wrote two arts pieces--one about a short ghost story film featuring Orson Welles called Return to Glennascaul, the other on Fragonard's late-eighteenth century painting, The Meeting. I wrote three short stories--"Goads," "Unordinary Blood," "Lift Off Girls."

* Here is last week's interview segment on Downtown with Rich Kimball. It's about interesting things found in the woods that are not animals, though they can come from animals; Hitchcock's British pictures; and sunflowers and Van Gogh.

* Sagging Meniscus will publish my second novel, Musings with Franklin. That's the one told entirely in conversation in a current day Boston bar that has been around since the time of the Revolution, featuring Writer, who believes he may be dead and in hell, Bartender, and the perverted guy from the suburbs who dresses up as Ben Franklin. This is predicated on the press not folding, as someone is going through something there, and without them, I am told, the press couldn't continue, though they felt reasonably confident this would not be the case such that it was okay to make new plans now.

* My old friend's mother died. She was only seventy-one. I find that I have a strange amount of useful advice for someone grief-stricken or unable to do anything but stare at walls. Because that is my status quo and has been for almost a decade. I told him that his mother was proud of him with how he has carried himself for his family, that these things have a way of being known, and that I was proud of him as well. As for the walls, I stressed the importance of keeping the mind engaged. Give it bite-sized engagements--watch the film, listen to the podcast, go on the run (when you run, you'll both think and your head will clear some), read aloud with the children, discover something new, listen to a Bob Dylan album, a Mozart symphony. A little secret. There are forms of pain--and I'm not saying this is my old friend's form--that are so total that you can't count on time or feelings changing. The former providing alleviation. The latter naturally occurring. Your only chance to continue forward is to force yourself. You have to go against your feelings. Your inclinations. They won't consent on their own. They won't "kick into gear" or whatever. Come around. You have to go against the entire established order--because this is the new order--of what is upon you now, what is in you now. That's why I carry on to date. That's why others stop. I don't mean other people with that kind of pain die. They'll exist. But it's not the same.

* I am writing a book and doing edits on a book. Over the weekend I completed two short stories that, along with "Lift Off Girls," are as good as anything I've ever done, a designation I do not like because I think it's all at the same level at this point and other people will pick other stories as the best that have not or would not occur to me. But when I make a list of the works I feel especially good about, these are the stories that go on it. One story is called "Rehearsal Visit," which is 3700 words long, the other is called "Green Glass Door" and is 4800 words long. I wrote both stories simultaneously. Yesterday I wrote a short story called "One Played, One Cried" and another called "Figures of Action" which is a gay story.

* Here is yesterday's Downtown segment, discussing the short story in JazzTimes which was the first they had published in their fifty-year history, and personal essay about moving from The Smart Set. I don't want to editorialize in this entry, but I'll just say I don't know how someone else could sound remotely like this in an interview, radio, or podcast segment.

* This is what I dream of: It's Dante and Virgil leaving hell. I'm traveling solo, and Dante was not subjected to the torments of hell--he merely took a tour--but it's still what I dream of.

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