When I am back at the desk this time next Sunday--it is before the dawn now--I must be able to say I produced what would be a seemingly impossible number of words for a week--even more so than usual--and gotten nearly halfway through a big project which I will not be specific about just now. I must be able to say I was brave, I faced things, I exposed, I took on whom I needed to take on. And that I had new work and money coming in. And that I did many climbs, because this is more stressful and just flat out harder than what any other person could be put through or ask of themselves, and without my grueling workouts, my heart is not going to be able to handle this. But first I will say a few words about what I have done the past few days, then I will resume the doing.
Yesterday I said something to Emma about friendship. There was what happened at Thanksgiving, for which there is no good explanation, and I never received one. She told me that her parents wished to have her leave me on my own for the day. I find that horrid, frankly. Absolutely horrid. We were supposed to go to the ballet the next day, and there was no way that could happen after that. We didn't talk again until mid-January, when I left a note outside of my door for Emma, saying that, of course, I cared about her very much, but what was I supposed to do? That was really wrong. And inexplicable. She and her family certainly know the position I am in. I have mentored this child, I have been there for her, I have helped her, let us be honest, in ways that no other human could, because it's not like I am some regular neighbor. The greatest artist ever lives thirty feet away from you, and he is kind and cares about the people he cares about deeply. When you want to write and be an artist yourself, and a good human, this is an invaluable resource. With what I have had going on every day, I've never carried any of that into my relationship with this young person. I have alwaysput aside my own pain, to be there for her. That morning she texted me right away, wishing to talk. Of course I talked to her. I went to Starbucks where she was at. She didn't go to school. Her mom knew. We talked, then I worked and she did homework, and we were there until the evening.
Emma has anxiety. She is highly expressive, but she is not confident socially. She's smart--obviously--and funny, she is sharp. But there is this pattern of being very short with people. She's not good, yet, at so much as saying "thank you." She comes across as very narcissistic, but I don't think she actually is. I have talked to her about this fifty times. I did so again yesterday. Via a text. I reminded her twice in the text that I love her very much--I always try to reinforce that when I have to level a charge of criticism, because I would not be doing right by her if I didn't; I wouldn't be helping her, teaching her. I wouldn't be being a good friend, either. Which is what yesterday's text was about. I told her that not only would she never say anything about what I gave her--if I printed her out a story, sent her a link--but that she doesn't even, in months, ask how I might be doing. I invite her to things, I am there to help her, like the other day. She lost her bag somewhere in Boston. She was a mess, late for school, lost her homework, etc. I said, okay, relax, where were you yesterday? I said that after school, I would take her back to where she had been, or we could phone, we could see if anyone turned in her bag.
It's not like I look at the clock and say, "I am free between three and five." I am never free. I am in a hell and fighting a war. I do nothing but work. And I don't make a dent in what I need to do, and what I do do, because of its matchless quality and matchless quantity, makes me hated, banned, buried in the ground. When I published that story in Harper's in April 2018, that was the last straw for publishing, if there was any doubt left, if anyone had not done their utmost to end my career, they took it upon themselves to do it then. My success had gotten out of hand and gone far enough, as far as these people were concerned.
Do you think I have gotten worse at writing fiction since then? I get better by the day. And that was 100 stories ago, none of which I can move. I am entirely blacklisted. People don't come back from a blacklist. You read about Hollywood actors and screenwriters. John Garfield. The career ends. Well, I am publishing more than anyone still, as much as ever, and I am not interested in coming back from this blacklist. I am interested in reaching the world, and ending this foul industry, replacing it with something better, getting people reading again. Conservatively, just with what I can write, how much I can write--and do write--and the subjects I write on, there is $100,000 a year for me to take, easily, from just pieces, by which I mean, not a staff writer job, not book deals, book sales, not film revenue. I can make that in $500 pieces. If I'm not banned like I am. When I do beat this, there is no limit on what I can earn, through books, films, house op-ed gig, staff gig, radio, television, speaking engagements. But that's not now. Right now is about not killing myself, being completely alone, doing nothing but working, having no quality of life--my quality of life, is, inarguably, worse than death--taking these people on on here, trying to reach more people so they can know the truth about how publishing really works and what that has done to the world. And I help this kid.
Now, someone might say, "all teenagers are that way, they only care about themselves." Firstly, that's not true. Secondly, it's not good enough. Thirdly, it's not how this person, with her gifts and mind and ostensible character, should be. A lot was given to her. By God, the universe, the Fates, whatever you want to call it. When a lot is given to you, you have to try tend to its upkeep a bit as a young person. You can focus harder on it later, in your twenties, but you need to be decent to the people around you and hit some bare minimums before that. With Emma, my feeling is it's a block, due to that social anxiety. I think intimacy frightens her. I think it is hard for her to say to someone how she feels about them, or let on how she feels. When you are fifteen, your friendships with your peers center on shared interests and activities together. That is, this kind of thing won't really catch up with you that much.
But it will, and soon enough, in a few years, and the bad habits you build up in the mid-teen years can inform your more serious relationships--romantic relationships, friendships--in just a few short years. This isn't really about me and Emma, though it is in one way. If we are going to be friends, I understand that it is I who will give far more, that I have the authority, the power. But friendship is still a two-way street, even if one person's side of the street is a lot less wide, their lane. Something still needs to be coming back in the other person's direction. Or else it is not friendship. It's just one person doing a lot of things for someone else. You can ask about someone's day, you can show concern, you can say, "hey, great story, man," you can say, "How are things with your family?" or "I am at Starbucks can I bring you anything? I know you have been at the desk all day." You can do that. And you should. About the bag, I never received a response. Just say, "No, I'm good man, thanks, we found it" or whatever. When we don't even do that, and we make excuses for ourselves--or people who behave this way, regardless of age--we do the world a disservice.
I am guilty of this as well. I need to send a letter to my godfather, who sent me a very nice card at my birthday in September. He said we don't do a very good job staying in touch, but he thinks we can do better. This man is important to me. When my dad died, I wrote a eulogy for him. I was weaker at the time. I was also--hard as this is to believe now--scared of public speaking. I know, it sounds like the craziest thing ever, because now I could pop into Gillette Stadium and speak about whatever to 70,000 people and my heart rate wouldn't even budge up a single beat. My godfather was the person I asked to read this eulogy for me. He gave me a car when I was a teenager--his old Monte Carlo--and he's one of the few moral paragons I have known and looked to in my life. The others? John. My dad. My friend Derek whom I don't really talk to anymore because it's too hard to catch up a friend on the agony that is my life. I kind of hope they read the emails I send them on the chain, I hope they see these pages, I hope this situation changes and I can be a normal person who does not have to catch anyone up on eight years in hell, and being the most hated person in an entire industry. One realizes, of course, what you've have to be to be the most hated person in publishing? You're going to have to be the greatest artist ever, the bringer of so much fear and envy, allowing that you're not some evil person who killed people molested the kids of all the people in the industry. This doesn't happen if you're just kind of good, it doesn't happen if you're merely a great artist. It happens if you are something historical, beyond what history has previously known.
I think it is plain from these pages exactly who I am as a man. A person. You couldn't suck at writing and be hated this much, blackballed this much. You would have to be a unique force of nature there had never been. And I am. Which I think is even more plain. And then the Admiral, a long-time family friend who lives in Medford with the Captain (they feature in an essay of mine that Salmagundi published, about the day I had to leave my house in Rockport that I am trying to get back, called "A Midshipman Lights Out," which is also in the as-yet-unsold Glue God: Essays (and Tips) for Repairing a Broken Self). Those are the only people I have looked to morally in my life, and thought about what they would do. That's it. That list can change. Hopefully someday I will meet a special woman with whom I will share my life--my life, post-hell--and she'll be that way. In fact, for me to be with someone, they would have to be that way. They'd have to make me think what they would do in a given situation in which I am either confused how to move forward, or when I am checking myself, asking myself, if I have done the right thing. Do you know how often I must ask myself that with these people who hate me, with the things I must do on this blog? Do you think I like doing them? Do you know how much it weighs on me? But as for my godfather. I haven't written and sent the letter to him yet. I can keep in touch better. I can thank him for reaching out to me on my birthday, I can send him a story or two I think he will like, a book. I tell myself I want to do a good job, not a three line note, and then, as one sees, I have to do so much every day, and so much writing. I don't write the letter. I will this week. But I have done the same thing with this man. I will explain my delay, tell him what he has meant to me, ask him not to conflate my delay with a lack of affection or gratitude. I'm simply barely hanging on to life at this point.
So, with Emma, I allow that she has her struggles. But when we are sitting there, she can say, "Funny radio segment, C-Dawg," or just, "How are you today?" And she doesn't. That's not how friendship goes. I want to say something very plain right now. There is nothing more important in this world than friendship. Art is the greatest form of friendship. It is the friendship that bridges all divides, it is the friendship that brings truth, beauty, respite, succor, hope, direction, inspiration, companionship, unconditional love.
You know how you read these pages and you feel connected to the person behind them? Or you read a book of mine or a story and you feel connected to it, the characters? That is the friendship of art. Friendship, too, is form of art. It requires vulnerability--which all art must possess--and it holds up the mirror, as art does. In another, we see ourselves; in art, we see ourselves. I am not talking about the absolutely ridiculous, meaningless wank one would see see in Georgia Review. American Short Fiction (quite the doozy of a blog, by the way, coming soon on one Nate Brown, managing editor of American Short Fiction; talk about exposing somebody), or New England Review. Marriage is underscored with friendship. There is friendship between parent and child, but that does not mean they are friends. This is very different. Very different indeed.
I am the last of the real artists, in one way. I am the first of the real artists, in another. I am the pivot point. I am Omega, but my legacy, as an artist, will be Alpha. When this is all over, I will be known as the start. And I will be known as the start regarding whom, those who followed, could never equal. But there was a new way all the same.
I did not climb yesterday. I will climb today. Yesterday I wrote two more new short stories in full. One, my first vampire story, called, "Tulum, A Vampire Story," then another story called "The Weather Within."
I texted John after, regarding the latter, saying I may have gone too far. I may be losing my mind, with this one, or I may have created my finest work, though it is no better than any of these others. Sometimes, in the very day, I can feel I have gone to another level. I don't mean for that day. I mean I am fundamentally changed, once more, as an artist. I usually feel these changes in pockets of time, I become conscious of them over a few weeks, maybe a month. I can tell you certain times, like when I wrote "Fitty" in July. Or when I wrote "Terry from the Cape" in 2010. Or when I wrote Dark March and The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe in summer 2012.
Yesterday in the space of a story I felt another mutation. I said to John, "look, this is one I don't want to send, I want to have you get the glass of whiskey after the kids and wife are asleep and get on the phone and I should read this one aloud to you. I may die alone, in poverty and filth, unknown, if these people beat me, but I can at least give you this experience, and you should have it."
What I am presiding over right now is...it's like you were 500 of the finest artists all at once, and you were doing all of their work all at once, in all the forms. I move from those stories, to proofing the upcoming novel, and it's all so different, and how is any of this possible? How is it one person? How is it a human? What was it, two days ago I put up my little screenshot of what eight days' worth of work looked like? Ancient history now. And every last work which they will not let you see, is as good as something like that short story I wrote which appeared in Harper's, which took me all of twenty minutes to write. But they own me right now. These people own my life and my soul. They own me. And it's about getting free.
The title, by the way, of the novel is Meatheads Say the Realest Things: A Satirical (Short) Novel of the Last Bro. I had mentioned that it was changing. And so it did. The main title, as one will note, is the original title. The subtitle is new. I like to adhere to a rule of having titles be thirteen words or less, subtitle included. I worked some more this morning on the short story about the air conditioner, "Wellness, Check," and began another, as yet untitled.
A woman reached out to me yesterday asking if I would fuck her, either yesterday or any day of the week of my choosing--save Tuesday--and make her squirt like a fountain (her simile), and for enticement she texted me a video (unsolicited) of prior squirting, but I was not interested, for a number of reasons, one being that she seemed unstable (and I have enough problems as it is), and also when you communicate in acronyms, I'm out. I am just flat out out. Can't do it. Can't do anything with you. Oh, she also told me she was writing two books, which everyone I encounter seems says to me, and I am also out at that point. People are so delusional, on so many levels. The new mantra of the world seems to be, "If you say it to yourself about yourself, it will become magically true." And those who do not agree with this, who answer to reality rather than caprice, are our mortal enemies.
I came up with two new excellent op-ed ideas, one of which would make everyone in publishing lose their minds, if I can get it to go with the venue I have in mind. On Friday I walked three miles, climbed five times--here's a video from inside the Monument--and then went to the 1:30 matinee of the BSO at Symphony Hall, aka, Colin and the nonagenarians, a program of Bartok, Mozart, Ravel.
Later today there should be an excellent piece in The American Interest on the Aaron Hernandez Netflix docu-series, which also gets into the real reason for the NFL's popularity. People tell you it is violence. They are completely wrong. I did not read a single decent piece about that series. I read people saying the same bland, boring things, the same rote talking points. I did not do that.
I will also write about Miles Davis's Bitches Brew for them, and, I think, for someone else, too, but in a way I will be writing about two entirely different works of music; let us say, in one instance, the album proper, in the other instance, what I will call Raw Brew. One is a citadel in the jungle; the other, the untouched jungle. People familiar with the record and its sessions will know what I mean. The rest will have to find out later. But I need to see--JazzTimes has a short story of mine called "The Day Louis Armstrong Lost his Color," which is about Armstrong, who has a huge gig that night at NYC's Carnegie Hall--the year is 1935--waking up to find out that he's no longer black. It's awesome. A work of historical fiction--people will relish the details relevant to his life at the time, the entertainment industry at the time, NYC at the time, jazz at the time--that is truly surprising and fresh and hits home right now in this age of identity politics. It's a great fucking story. They don't publish fiction, but I wanted to see if we can do this one work of fiction in the magazine. It's only 2000 words long, so it doesn't eat up loads of real estate, either.
My belt fell apart, so I had to try and find one of my old ones, which did not used to fit, but now it fit with plenty of room. Today marks 1337 days without a drink. Earlier this morning I listened to two episode of the radio program Suspense, one called "Consequence" from 1946 starring Jimmy Stewart, and "August Heat" from 1945. Stewart was paid $4000 for his appearance, which he made shortly before It's a Wonderful Life began filming. "August Heat" is based on the W.F. Harvey 1910 ghost story--if you want to call it a ghost story--which is among the best works of speculative fiction. The ending of the radio episode is contrived--they couldn't leave well enough alone, couldn't let the story have its final open note, this being radio.
Coming home from the symphony on Friday afternoon--I was racing home, actually, because I had a letter I wanted to send that I had written in my head at the symphony, which nothing will probably come of, but could be life-changing if the letter led to "Fitty" appearing in the manner in which I proposed, where it would become part of a national dialogue--I did a couple of quick errands, picking up the January issue of The New Criterion at a bookstore on Newbury Street, then making a whirlwind jaunt through Trader Joe's on Boylston for provisions. And you know what? I ended up back at the same register that I was at last time, on New Year's Eve, with another smoking hot, charming woman. Different one. And again, we're talking, laughing, all of that, so this time I take a look around, to see if this is a Trader Joe's thing, and all of the cashiers are having merry conversations with customers, but nope, it's just happening here again. I am not someone who thinks, "Dude, she was flirting with me," ever, but this wasn't just about ringing me up. She wouldn't let me leave until she had me test out the weight a couple times in the two bags, which she was trying to distribute evenly. Now, I certainly don't look like a person who is going to struggle carrying a bag of any weight, but she was very playful. But after not having heard from that woman before, I didn't return to leave a note this time. I don't need to be known as the guy at the Back Bay Trader Joe's who tries to pick up hot cashiers. Hot and smart cashiers. Zero-for-one is enough, I guess.
The meatheads in my building are intolerable. Loud, drunken, stupid, and like they all share a fetish for slamming their doors every time they leave or return. The level of conversations these meatheads have in the hallway is something to behold. I think they would read Meatheads unironically, as like a kind of tribute. You could sell Meatheads to these meatheads, just like someone could write a book on Meatheads as a new form of fiction, or the art of humor, or a paper for their women's studies class, etc. It is impossible for meatheads to be in a hallway and not have loud conversations in it. Just as it is impossible for meatheads to not continue these conversations outside such that you, back inside, can still hear their voices when they are three, four blocks away. Has a meathead ever been quiet? Or: Is it scientifically possible for a meathead to whisper?
Steve Atwater made the Hall of Fame. Thought he deserved it. Edgerrin James did as well, thought he did not. Richard Seymour deserved to, but didn't expect him to yesterday, though expect he will in the next year or two. As I said on Twitter, the Patriots' renaissance circa 2001 had as much, if not more, to do with Seymour than Brady.
People are talking about Ovechkin having a chance to break Gretzky's record for goals. He is definitely going to break it. The bigger question to me is if he can score 1000 goals. I have not been monitoring this closely, but my feeling is most people are picking San Francisco for the Super Bowl tonight. I don't see that happening. Thought long ago it would be the Chiefs--at least a couple weeks before the playoffs started. San Francisco does not have the offense. Nor do I think they have the defense to stop Mahomes right now. He is playing the position at a level few have gotten to--Marino (in 1984), Manning, Brady. Seriously, maybe just those three. He's better than Rodgers ever was. People, of course, because they are racists, cried racism yesterday when Lamar Jackson won the MVP but was not named the All-Pro QB selection. People are so fucking stupid. MVP does not mean "best." It has taken on that meaning in baseball, which is why Mike Trout, with the highest WAR, on a team that finishes 20 games out, in a season in which he only plays 130 games, wins the award, when he is not valuable to anything, in actual fact, because what is the value in being, I don't know, slightly less not totally out of it? All-Pro selections are for best. In the NHL, you will see guys win the Hart or the Vezina, but maybe not be the first team All-Star selection at their position. No one cries racism. Because these are different awards, denoting different things. As for Lamar Jackson--wouldn't be surprised if he is out of the league in three years. He can't throw. This is it. This is the big moment for him. Everything is downhill now. He can't throw, he gets pounded how he runs. It's not going to work over multiple seasons. People catch up to you, figure you out, the hits accrue, the nagging injuries become permanent injuries. You want a quarterback who can move in the pocket, and not much anywhere else, or not more than Montana, Rodgers, Mahomes--that's the outer limits of movement you want. Because you won't last. Eventually, it's about standing there, more or less, and making the throws.
I keep seeing stuff about Peter Jackson's version of Let It Be. Get prepared to be lied to. I can already tell that this film wants to lie to people in the mentally ill age of Feelz. The Beatles of Let It Be loved each other so much and had tons of fun in the studio! Bullshit. These men had rancor for each other by then, full-out rancor. Did they smile and joke? Yep. Some. But when you meet up with people you have rancor for--maybe it's your family, and you have to see them--do you get in their face and say, "Let's throw, bitches!" No. You're going to hob-nob somewhat, you're going to shoot the shit about the local sports stories, you're going to do a few jokes, but your heart is not in it, and you want to get the fuck out of Dodge. It's something you're getting through, and we're human, and we have a history, old jokes, old memories in common, and that comes out. Then you're not going to talk again for another year or until you have to go to a funeral together. I am going to write a piece on the actual Let It Be film, which has already been scrubbed from the Beatles' story, just about, and stands to be forever lost at this point, if they don't bring it out this year on Blu-ray.