Woke up in the middle of the night and could not sleep, in part because of the mattress which badly needs replacing. I don't even know what shape you'd call it at this point. I then began to create new stories in my head and listen to the half hour episodes of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, for several hours. I've done the half hour episodes something of a disservice. They are strong in their own right. They're just not at the level of the five-parters. Sometimes--especially as we get closer to the 1960 episodes--it's like we're talking a different show, a different main character. They become less thoughtful, and more "snappy." But still really good stuff, especially in late 1956 and into 1957.
The other day I received a letter from the IRS telling me I owed them $90,000. I launched into an impromptu account about this--and editors--at the start of this thirty-four minute Downtown segment, which is art. I am not going to pretend, I am not going to do false modesty, because what is the point when you have an entire industry against you and are imprisoned by your genius? So I'll just say this is better than anyone has ever been on the radio. I love Orson Welles and think he's one of the five smartest people to ever live, but he wasn't nearly this good on the radio as I am time and time again.
What do you have there? Someone smarter, kinder, edgier, funnier, realer, less predictable, more articulate, wiser, more knowledgeable--about everything--than anyone else. What more could you want? But in reality, what is wanted is someone connected, either via cronyism, nepotism, or classism, or a combination, who is mediocre, predictable, knows nothing, talks in a clumsy way out of their ass, speaks in cliches, repeats themselves, is humorless, witless, slow-thinking, obvious, a verbal version of bacon fat dripping into a bucket on the air. To that person will go the money, the jobs, the 1.4 million followers, the platform.
What someone should say to you early in life is, "If you want to be successful, suck. Be a moron. Be lazy. Know nothing, but talk like there's no way you could be wrong. Make up whatever you like, though make sure you have no imagination. Shill. Lick boots, asses, taints. Lick every undercarriage and underside you can. Don't worry if there is no one you ever encounter who is more stupid than you. That's awesome. That will hook you up. Make sure you aren't productive, too. People hate that."
Of course, you don't have to say it to most people, because it's going to happen naturally. You know what (some) people said to me? "You have a unique mind. You have unique talent. Take it all as far as you can go with it. Work hard. Never stop." I had teachers very early on, who pulled me aside, who asked me to stay a few minutes after class, to inquire how I was able to do what I did, think as I thought, write I as I wrote; and did I know how different this all was?; how I was unlike anyone they'd ever known?; and even as they gathered this information, which was in one way to indulge their own curiosity, they had an additional purpose of doing a kindness, they thought, by me, in that there was no one like me, and there were things I could do in my future that others could not. They wanted me to know. Or to know that they knew. Or they wanted to help me know if I had overlooked this, or would recall it later, as I was out traveling down a road no one else was on. When did this first happen? In third grade. And then at others times, until the formal education system was something that was totally irrelevant to me, the knowledge I had and sought, and certainly my abilities as an artist. But I do think about those teachers now, and the other kids, who were so simple, and I am sure they are simple, lazy, common adults.
And you know what that has done to me? Where that has left me? Thus far, anyway. Not that I did what I did because of what anyone ever said. I do what I do because of what I am, and what is unique in the annals of the world in me. But unless I get out of this situation, and do a lot to change that world--which is why I believe I am here--what you really want to be is a clueless, lazy idiot. Because then the world provides for you. What's your life if you're that person? Well, I'd say it's pointless. It's not worth living, because it's not actually lived. It's like being a human stump. Just there. I have learned that there is not a single person I know who is not deeply broken. I don't communicate this to any of them, for the most part, but I can see the emptiness of their lives. Their souls. Their hearts. I see it in gestures, words, these desperate needs they have for the most empty, pathetic forms of recognition--even if the recognition is a total lie--and though this isn't a great thing to admit, in some ways, it makes me feel good. I think I am the only person I know who is actually alive. I think I'm the only person I know who is not broken. I think I am the only person I know who actually has a shot at being truly happy. I see so many other people who entered what they entered for the wrong reasons--a marriage--who live with no purpose, who have no purpose, passion, a clue. And they're dead. They're just playing out a string. Right now, they have all of the comforts, the ease, and I have none of that. They have people in what are stock, empty relationships, but they have bodies around them; they have nice houses. Nice figures staring them back in the face in the bank accounts. But they're dead. And I watch them somehow become deader, because that's the nature of time, when you are alive but also already dead. A lot of years to go. A lot of decades. These people will desperately need to lie to themselves, and to do that they must change the standards for everything. They must lower every single bar. They must attempt to warp reality. And that takes a toll. Day in, day out, year in, year out. There are times I think I am the only healthy person I have ever known. And I am in a hell that their minds cannot imagine. Somehow, I keep getting better. Somehow, I keep becoming more alive.
I'd say at this point, if you're counting everything I do, I am making a dozen works of art each week. By work of art, I don't mean "something in a creative vein." I mean something to last, that can always impact lives, something that can always be studied, and is imperishable. This wretched room in which I cannot even move, is history's greatest art/genius factory. Such an irony, if anyone was to lay eyes on this disgusting hovel.
I wrote a radio station in NYC today about me maybe coming on to discuss the Sam Cooke book.
Someone read one of the new stories, "Frog Boy Skin," which I guess for me isn't that new because it's from a month ago. It's not one I think very highly of. I'll put it this way, because it's confusing. I say I don't think highly of something, but I also know that it's as strong as anything I've ever done, or close to it. Because at this point, when I do what I do, the work is going to reach a certain level. Every time. No exceptions. I don't have some that are 100, others that are an 83, others that are a 94. I'm just not that way at this point as an artist. But I do feel differently about some. I also look at things with a different eye than other people. Someone else said to me, "You see prose in a way that no one ever has, so of course that will be the case and you'll even see things in your own work that you grumble about later and want to fix that no one would see on their own." Anyway, this first person opined that "Frog Boy Skin"--which is sort of a story about bullying--was the best work of literature they've read. I get these comments about stories I myself never think twice about. Now, a lot of that is because I've moved forward. The next story is always what matters most to me. This individual was going to have their daughter read the story. I think she's ten or eleven. He didn't say why he wanted her to read it. He'd never said that about any of the others. Perhaps it's the bullying angle.
I have to be careful with my language in describing what I think about a work. Because this morning I wanted to say to someone that one of these new stories, "Upon Becoming a Ghost," may be the very best thing I've ever written, and better than "Fitty." I'm differentiating, and I'm not lying, but I also don't think it's literally better than anything I've done or "Fitty." But this is part of the "problem" of having so many works at this artistic level that are completely different from each other in style, form, tone, etc., but qualitatively comparable. But for me personally, "Upon Becoming a Ghost" stands out. If I could have only one of these stories, like the others would all be obliterated, taken from the record of reality, this would be one of my final stage contenders for when it came time to make that one decision. Then again, I don't look at the others. Someone else had said "Dead Thomas" was the best work of short fiction they'd ever experienced, and I thought huh, okay, and then I had cause to go through it five or six weeks ago--for a relevant work reason--and I was dumbstruck by how good it was. Bowled over. If I was not me, I would have been so intimidated that someone had produced a work at that level. Or, with the knowledge that I had produced it, that I might ever get close to that level again. I know this one guy who talks about this one story he wrote as better than anything he ever did. It just came to him, he wrote it pretty easily, and he's never been able to get anywhere close to it again in all of the years since. It's kind of depressing and defeatist listening to him, but that's how it is for other people, if it's even that.
One of those new books, The Ghost Grew Legs: Stories of the Dead for the More or Less Living is really coming together fast. No one has treated the ghost story as I am treating it. I am remaking it. Opening up worlds of possibilities that this form has never had. I have invented a new mode of ghost stories. Modes. Because these stories don't repeat. "Dead Thomas," "Post-Fletcher," "Jute," "Upon Becoming a Ghost." The ghost story has never had this kind of social and cultural utility. What you get with other ghost stories is the chills, the atmosphere. That's their point. They don't have legs beyond that. They are what they are--which is fine. Obviously, as one can tell from my writings and radio interviews on the subject, I love them. But they're limited. Mine are not limited in the slightest. What you have to do, in some ways, is have something be entirely a ghost story, but also not a ghost story at all at the same time.
I have one of these ghost stories that is not a ghost story in the September issue of Portland Monthly. It's called "The Captain's Walk." Scroll to the end of the issue, where the story is the last piece.
Every time I see someone say, “my guy,” as in, “Try again, my guy,” my conviction deepens that the world would be a better place if those people could be shipped off of it, along with everyone else who can’t come up with their own words. Talk like yourself. No one else.
Certain days at the Government Center stairs it feels like I am giving interviews on the run with all of the questions I field. Is priority afforded to comely women? I wouldn’t say that outright. But I probably wouldn’t deny it.
Route 66 is a fantastic show. Seeps into you. It has such an autumnal vibe, too. This autumn at dusk tonality. If one has Amazon Prime Video, the complete series can be viewed for free (but with commercials).
Chris Sale is giving the Red Sox a lot more than I thought he would. They suck, but he's kept them in it, such as they're in anything. There is so much quit in this team. Someone I know says that's not the case, they're just not that good, but it's quit when you're making all of these mental errors. When you're this lazy and sloppy. When you're chucking the ball to random spots from the outfield because you've checked out mentally and your head is not in the game. You can see how much better the Rays are, though. They pound the Red Sox when they beat them, control the game the entire time, and when the Sox manage to win one, it takes everything they have to somehow eek out the victory, such as last night's 3-2 contest with Sale doing his thing again. There can't be more than 8000 people at that ballpark in Tampa, which is a shame, because that team plays some efficient baseball. I like how they go about their business. No nonsense. Clinical.
Saw the Mets' acting GM got arrested on a DUI. I wish there was a zero tolerance policy for driving under the influence. One and done. You never have a license again.
I don't care for this seventeen game schedule in the NFL. Sixteen was the right number. If the Patriots don't win 12 games, I think that will be a disappointment. 12 wins in the regular season, then some noise in the playoffs, with a shot to win it all. My largest concern with Mac Jones is his ability to hold up. I'm sure he'll make plenty of mistakes--at least for a while--and hold the ball too long in spots, which is not the same as generally having the ball come out quickly. I just think some of these guys who are starting out don't have a feel at first for when people are closing in on them, especially from behind. He seems to me like a quick and ready learner, though. I think he's going to be good. I am surprised that they didn't bring back Nick Folk, arguably their best player last year (a hollow designation, sure, but he was clutch, and without him they probably would have had two or three less wins). They'll need a kicker this year. I don't see them scoring massive amounts of points. Can also see them stalling some in the red zone. My sense with the guy they kept is that he'll boom a 54-yarder, but then miss two extra points.
I am actually going to a game Saturday out at Boston College, by my stairs! It's just me, because I have no friends, but I've had a yearning for college football, as that unsold op-ed I put up on here yesterday indicated. I'd feel better about going if I knew I was writing a book for someone on To Walk the Night, which has this awesome college football/campus section early on that I utterly love. I love it so much. It's big boy writing. As for BC, I'm expecting 10 wins this year and top 25 ranking. They should be a strong team and are on the right track. The thing with a school like BC is someone with a clue comes in, they can make the program successful--to varying degrees--for a few years, and then they leave, because it's not a job to stay at. Consistently being around the top 25 is a realistic goal, with having the occasional special year (the last of which was 2007; before that, probably 1984).
You know what's bizarre to me? The way the Who treat their own in-concert archive. For instance: we have the fiftieth anniversary of Who's Next. There are these amazing soundboard tapes from San Francisco in 1971. If they put them out, right away they'd be offering up one of the best live albums in rock and roll history. Would shoot right to the top of the list. Why would you not do this? The Who almost never do. They put out the Hull tape a bunch of years ago. But they could do this kind of thing with regularity. Check out this performance of "Baby Don't You Do It."
Now I'm going to walk. I've been walking little, Just running those Government Center stairs. But now I'm going to walk, and drink some coffee, and think, and maybe get some flowers.