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Engagement rules

Monday 12/16/19

Today is my late sister Kerrin's birthday. She would have been thirty-nine. I decided a while ago that when I sell Glue God: Essays (and Tips) for Repairing a Broken Self and it is coming out, I will dedicate it to her. The essays read, I suppose one could say, like stretches of this journal; stretches people connect with and are inspired by. But industry people are so simple and lacking in vision that they cannot even connect the dots that already appear to make an intact line.


Yesterday I was walking to Charlestown to do my climbs. I had crossed the harbor and was not far from the Monument. I move at a brisk pace, just trying to get where I have to get to--be that when it comes to my Sunday morning workout, or in the larger "alter the world, get people reading again, save culture and uniquely aid humanity" sense. I had been up until three thirty in the morning, working and writing people who hate me, and then arose at seven to get up and work some more. A woman behind a car--which presumably her husband was in--stops me with a bark. By which I mean, she nearly shouts at me, "You live here, don't you?" Her tone was obnoxious, notably peremptory and dismissive. Because I had on a hoodie and beanie and we were in Charlestown, and I'm a guy, and she's sexist and has seen Good Will Hunting, she's going to angrily assume I'm a local. What she wants, no doubt, is parking info. I don't drive. I can drive, in that I have a license, but I am poor and a car is not something I have right now. That's going to have to wait until I'm back in Rockport. I certainly know nothing about the parking laws of Charlestown. I could say, "sure," and tell her whatever, but they'll get a ticket. So I simply answer her question, by saying, "I don't." And we're done. I say it politely, no edge to my voice, simply answering as I harry on my way.


But she's not going to leave it go like that. You know those people who drop in a "buh bye"? And that's how they say it? Or write it. The same kind of person who likes a taunt along the lines of "See ya! Wouldn't want to be ya!" That's exactly how she said, "Have a nice day" to me. Aggressive, angry, like I've wronged her, or I'm an idiot for not having the information she wishes to acquire, or both.


This gave me an idea for an op-ed, which I have added to the list. Call it the rules of engagement. I believe that if you're going about your life, and someone has a go at you, unprovoked, then you are under no obligation not to shame them, insult them, say whatever withering remark you wish that stays with them and haunts them for a while. You can't, for instance, walk up to someone and say, "hey, move it, Jiggles," but if they have a go? I think you have carte blanche.


Yesterday marked 1288 days without a drink. I only climbed the Monument twice yesterday, but the first time I ran all 294 stairs, which is only the second time I've run all the way up. My routine usually is to run the first 100 stairs, walk the rest without stopping, come back down, repeat, repeat again, etc. Last week I climbed twenty-four times. I have composed three full short stories and a 7000 word essay. One of the stories is called "Flurry." It's about shooting a horse. It's about a lot more. There are now more than seventy new short stories going back to summer of last year. Off the top of my head, I'd pick that one as one of my personal standouts.


But I wouldn't put it over "Spines," which I also wrote other day; it's about a mother who has to kill her child every night so that it can remain alive. As emotionally churning--and sweet and beautiful, oddly--as art gets. Then there was "Disengage," which is about a seven-year-old kid who partakes in neighborhood rivalries and games, with an element of some danger to them, though that danger doesn't seem particularly serious. The day before is family goes out of state for Christmas, he ambushes a rival in the woods, throwing rocks. The rival skitters off, the kid goes home, the family leaves, he comes back in the new year, and he learns the kid died. There was a brain injury, he sits down in the woods, falls asleep, freezes to death. And the kid doesn't tell anyone. He doesn't tell his parents, his friends, the therapist he goes to, his college girlfriend, his wife. And because of what happened, he's the best person. Everyone thinks he is the best person. He doesn't get angry when people take out their own shit on him. But he's also not quite done with the kid, as it were. Then today there was "Good Loving Brought," in which the story unfolds as a woman sings two songs--one by Charles Brown, the other Sam Cooke--in her shower, where she also brushes her teeth, because she can't brush her teeth in front of a mirror. As far as form goes, I've seen nothing like it. But there is nothing like any of this. Which is, of course, obvious.


Here is last week's Downtown appearance, in which I discuss Duke Ellington, F. Scott Fitzgerald, a Don Siegel short Christmas film, and a Christmas noir. I almost cancelled, because I was too utterly destroyed to even move my fucking mouth. It's a lot of work, too, after all of this time, for so little coming back my way--just more works of art to add to my huge pile of works of art, for that's what every appearance ultimately is, and it's like, what do I need more works of art for at this hellish point? I don't get anything out of it. Doesn't even boost any numbers. All of two of the listeners have signed up for something as ridiculous Twitter in my case. In the "I'll follow this guy" sense. So, this is me at a low, or another low, or somewhere in the low area/category, if you want to hear what that sounds like. Sounds like it always sounds like and worlds better than anyone else on the radio, but that ain't helping me fuck all. Tomorrow I'll discuss a Christmas short story I wrote and published in Salmagundi called "Mint State 87." It's in Cheer Pack: Stories, another book I have to move.

I sent letters to Esquire, The Atlantic, JazzTimes, Ecotone, WSJ (arts section), The Sun, Granta, Oxford American, New York Magazine, Fiction, Pitchfork, LA Review of Books. Who will respond? Probably just one person, maybe two, at most three, the second and third will be perfunctory "fuck off" things without the actual words fuck off. Just processing--not even being read or honestly considered. And for the punching of the old ego card. Almost all decisions have nothing to do with the work involved, and almost all decisions are of a personal nature. Being one of them. But, I'll get some stuff, maybe there will be some surprises, but whatever I get--which they don't get--they'll hate me more. That's part of the problem to be solved. Or, rather, made irrelevant. The time will come.


As for my Charlestown friend: as soon as her words were out of her mouth, the words "Have a nice third chin" were in her ears. When you have a go at me, it is never going to work out the way you wish it to. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever. It just isn't.