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Diminuendo and crescendo

Friday 4/5/19

It is after four in the morning. I could not sleep. I was lying in this warped bed listening to Clive Morrison as Sherlock Holmes in "The Empty House," tired but awake, too awake, so I composed chapter 12 of the new book. I admit, the idea of composing a book in two weeks--or maybe even in one--gets my competitive side going. It's like when Duke Ellington heard Paul Gonsalves start his epic solo at Newport in 1956 on "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue." The crowd was restless, then people started freaking out, then people were getting into it. Nobody was sure what was going to happen, if there was going to be a riot. The promoter wanted Ellington to stop the music. But his sense of drama and curiosity was piqued. So he gave Gonsalves the go-ahead to keep going with the solo he had started. That's how I feel. I just read this back about ten times. When prose just claims space for itself--it bites into our existence, it bites into the real estate of emotional reality, you see it claim space on the page that it just has to have--it reminds me of watching a great skater like Paul Coffey taking all of the open ice the opposition has given him as he winds up out of his own end, or that deepest breath you ever took of the purest nature out in the deepest woods that filled more of your lungs than any air before ever had. That prose just has to have that space like that air has to fill up your lungs and Coffey has to have that ice. I hardly ever see this in writing any more. I know it as soon as I do see it because it's impossible to miss. The author isn't so much as making the language as the language has made itself, has made the author. And it just takes that space without hesitation. It owns it. Now I must sleep a little.


***


It is now ten in the AM. I was awoken at eight by someone who had just read a couple more chapters of Meatheads Say the Craziest Things who wanted to talk about it but I could not understand them because every time they tried to reference a part they just started laughing and their words were completely unintelligible, and each time I said "What?" and they tried again those attempts were equally unintelligible. I did make something out in the sleep study chapter about something that I didn't even intend as that funny or one of the funnier parts and that had them giggling away violently even. That, frankly, is what we are going for. Then I wrote another chapter just now. I am not going to lie, the idea of doing an entire book, not some half-assed draft, either, but finished gem, in one week, appeals to me. This is a great book and it will have a great story, too, which would be good for interviews and marketing if it took off. Last Saturday I was walking past the Coast Guard station--I can't even recall if I mentioned this here--and one Coast Guard officer said to another, "So he started spitting seeds at him right in the bar" and he kind of did the meathead laugh and immediately I had this book. I absolutely had it. I was walking to Charlestown when I heard that exchange and before I got to the bridge leaving Boston I had the first chapter written in my head and what I formally composed the next day was pretty much it verbatim.


I also watched a Ricky Gervais film in the middle of the night of his stand-up routine on Netflix. It was okay. It was better than After Life which I thought was very disappointing. After Life started out promising, but he didn't have enough for a story, for arcs. And I'm supposed to believe that the Gervais character in that is basically a murder with what he does with the heroin addict? That did not track at all. That was ostentatious shock value stuff. You have to be true to characters. Hell, if anything you need to be more true to your characters than to even yourself. Then the plot fizzled out, and it just became Ricky Gervais walking around to various spots--the cemetery, his nephew's school--and having "emotional" scenes. I hate that kind of writing. I call it bus stop writing. It's not organic, it's like someone showing up to catch a bus. It's scheduled. You see it in Doctor Who when the Doctor is dying, and he needs to regenerate, so he goes around and has a moment with all of his past buddies and companions at their bar, their place of work, whatever it may be. Empty, padded, gratuitous. I think Gervais--whom I like--had one great work of art in him, that being The Office. Watch the proper version of The Office. I think it's one of the great artistic works of Western civilization. What they were doing there, when you watch it now, is utterly shocking in how bold it was. It is radical art that has massive popular appeal.


***


It is now 11 AM. Started chapter 14. I need to shower, take a long walk, maybe go to the Museum, read, clear my head, figure out how I want to do these next few chapters to get me to chapter 20. The last chapter I know is going to be set on another planet and the book will end there with the meathead as Earth's representative now that humanity and society are over. And I know one of the other ones is going to be about a suicide prevention hotline. The meathead volunteers at one.


I have a giant pimple on my forehead. This is not sexy.


***


The building board sent an email to everyone on account of how loud everyone is in here. So, of course, what do the people next door do? They start cranking their music so loud that the floor and walls in here are literally vibrating. Because someone (not me) dared to ask them to be respectful of others. We just can't have that anymore. What a slurry of human sloppery and ignorance and rudeness and hate and illness this world is everywhere you turn now.


I was at Starbucks yesterday. There are tables that seat four in the middle of the cafe. Along most of the walls there are tables that seat two. Then there is a wall with single chairs--big puffy ones--that are separated by small tables also along the wall. One of these chairs was open and had been while I waited at the counter for my drink, taking peeks behind me to make sure it was still free, so my drink comes and I go and sit in the chair. Seems a normal thing to do. You have a table on each side of you. Individual chair. Unoccupied. I'm an alert guy. I am never in my own world. I am always fully engaged with what it happening around me. I peer into everything microscopically. As you might imagine if you read these pages. I had had a long day. I had written four chapters, climbed the Monument twelve times. I guess I looked like a jock, in a way. I look athletic. I will get comments on dating sites--because, hey, let's be sexist and objectifying--from such and such a woman saying she does not believe I am an author because I look like a bro or an athlete. "But maybe I'll give you a chance if you don't bore me." That is seriously the norm now in terms of how a person such as myself is spoken to in these forums. You're supposed to look a certain way. Tiny, hipster-y, nebbish. But, at the Starbucks, lest some boorish jock had come along, I was literally holding three books, and I'm reading from each of them simultaneously, marking them up, from a YA novel to War and Peace to a Lord Dunsany novel. I don't look like a rude, meathead, dick.


I notice the woman on my left-hand side--again, keep in mind, there is a table between us, we are at a distance from each other--sighing, sighing some more, rolling her eyes, staring at me. Like, I don't want to have to do this. I don't want to take you on. It's not going to go the way you want it to go with me. It just isn't. It's not going to be what you want to be doing, and after you've done it you're going to wish you hadn't. And I just want to be left alone, and have people act politely, just like I act politely. I come in, I exchange a few remarks with the barista, we smile, have a little joke, the people who work there are really nice, I like them, they like me.


This guy about thirty-five-years-old comes over after about ten minutes. The woman says, "This rude man just took your chair, he didn't even ask." I keep reading. But she's trying to start something. So she says some version of the above three more times. Finally, without looking up--because I'm not going to stop reading because my time is valuable--I say, "Do you ever find this is worth it?" She says, "What?" I say, "this. What you're doing right now. This chair was clearly untenanted, just as you clearly have done this numerous times to other people today, because it's this faux-outrage attitudinal shtick you can't help dispensing as a means to assuage whatever it is that also so clearly torments you." She says, "How dare you, my son is going to--" And I say, "Your son is not going to do anything. He's embarrassed and he wants to leave." She calls me an asshole. By now I'm looking at her. And I just say, "And it's not good for your blood pressure either." I motion to the giant high calorie chocolate galore drink she has, and add, "You clearly already have risk factors. Don't try to pick fights where there are none to be had, and nothing to be won." They left, and I went back to reading.


I would say that it was with more than normal curiosity that I just now read an account line of a Rebecca Mankey in Palo Alto, but this would not be accurate; my interest was not piqued by my own Starbucks experience, as this was more a case of "what is the latest now?" Mankey, upon seeing a seventy-four-year-old man in a MAGA at a Starbucks, started swearing at him, calling him a racist, yelling at him, and inciting the full cafe to join her in berating, swearing at, yelling at, this man. She went to lunch. She came back, and saw he was still there, so she began attacking him again, calling him a Nazi. This seventy-four-year-old man was Jewish. I saw an interview with him. He was tolerant. He wasn't angry. Even after he'd been mocked, shouted at, embarrassed--dozens of people were staring at this man because this other person chose, for no reason at all, to start calling him a very bad thing. She wanted to ruin his life. In the interview, he said he was disappointed, and he was hurt that, as a Jewish man, he had been called a Nazi. Mankey attempted to find out where he lived, who his kids were, who his grandkids were, so she could get him fired and attack his family. She wanted to protest outside of this man's home--because he wore a hat--so that everyone would know that he hated people of color. Because he wore a hat. She lost her job when this backfired, and the Jewish man expressed that it was regrettable that that had happened to her.


I am not a conservative. I am not a liberal. I am nothing in between. Here is the reality. If you focus on truly learning who you are, being truly self-aware, dealing with your shortcomings, facing hard things about yourself, growing with art, growing with ideas, feeding your mind, your body, your soul, as best you can--not as best you tell yourself you can, because that is way, way different--and you work to make life and your part in it about decency, character, others, and merit, that is the one political party that should matter to any of us. There is nothing else. It's just that. That's the party. Join it. There isn't another that matters. There never will be, there never was. That is the party that is the cure for all of society's ills. Doesn't make the world perfect, doesn't eradicate cancer, but that is the entire foundation upon which everything else is built. And it's not what the Democratic party is about, and it's not what the Republican party is about.


I see people like Mankey all the time, though. The amount of attitude and rudeness and entitlement I catch right now, as a white male--be it at the Starbucks, be it inside of the Monument--would floor me if I was not at present so used to it and expecting of it. Can people really not see that that is part of why Trump is not only going to win in 2020, he's going to win by huge margins? Again, I am not conservative, I am not liberal, but I do see what is happening right now. Focus on who you are and what you can be. When you do that, you are going to have a tough time of it. For a spell. But you will get better at it. You're going to have to deal with some things that are not great, that take real courage to face. The dogs that we all seek to keep outside, lest they get at us, need to come in, and find shelter in our home, and that means we need to be able to live with parts of ourselves that are not as they should be, as we work to bring them within the folds of the better parts of our hearts and minds.


Focus on that. Not on social media posts about politics. The more a person spends their life posting about their oft-ignorant, anti-Platonic political opinions, the more they shave away another layer of their moral character. and then they are just a nub, or a rusty nail on an old begrimed chalkboard that no one really reads or vets or cares about. It become less about actually want to change anything--I mean, hell, people can't even start with changing anything about themselves, which is everyone's very first thing and main thing by definition--and merely wanting to self-congratulate for having signed up to join a din, where rational and critical thinking goes to die. Read War and Peace. Walk fifty miles a week every week for a month with just your thoughts. Not your phone. Get off social media, because it is sociological cancer. And as a general rule, if you're being horrible at the Starbucks, it's not a matter of someone warranting your rage; it's a matter of you needing people's pity.


Moving on.


I did very little today after writing two chapters and getting halfway through a third, but the final six are now entirely mapped out. If I have one of those historic days I may finish this book tomorrow. An entire book, conceived and composed in a week, and it was but a fraction of what I have done. Unleash me. I am so ready to sing to this world with the proper backing. Or any.


Also, the Red Sox suck. What did I say on Kimball, they'd come home to Fenway at 3-8 for an awkward ring ceremony? They're going to be lucky to be 3-8. Also: I would let Mookie Betts walk after 2020. There is something really off about that player and I don't think he is going to age well either. A lot of times "wrist first" guys do not. And yes, I know about Hank Aaron. That's not Mookie Betts, and he's horrible in the postseason, and I don't think he cares that much about winning or is an intelligent ballplayer.


And if you don't know this, before you do anything else, just listen. Trust me. I could write a screenplay about the story of this solo. Mr. Gonsalves starts doing his thing at 4:25. He's going to take a little while to finish.