More to do this week than ever before. I have not updated this record as I should have over the last several days, so this will be a quick installment of dueling Week Games--a noting of some of what happened last week, and a tabulation of how this week has begun. Estuarial Week Gaming. I do not like to look back, but I also don't wish to leave an incomplete record.
Last week I sold an op-ed on Charlie Parker to The Wall Street Journal. I wrote another op-ed on the value--as per growth--of literally getting lost in the woods. The third Beatles episode--on "This Boy"--aired for the Songs of Note Podcast. We have two more episodes to tape and air in July.
I wrote four full short stories: "Second Boy," "Last Firsts," "Belly Fish," "Bed Game." The last three feature female protagonists. All are third person save for "Belly Fish."
"Last Firsts" unfolds entirely as a young woman--she's a college senior--ties her father's tie on Thanksgiving. She's home for a short break. The father lives alone in the house she grew up in. He's kind of a nonsense guy, a strength guy. What they usually do for Thanksgiving is go to the home of their British neighbors--bit of irony there--as they had done so for all of the girl's life, both when her parents were together, and now that they are divorced. Her mom lives a couple towns over with a Native American gentleman. That summer, she announced she was getting remarried. The mother and the father still have affection for each other, but the father isn't really able to move on. He loves in a way that's so full that he struggles to let go.
This year for Thanksgiving, the gathering will be more intimate--they're going to the "new" house of the girl's mom--she's been there for a few years--and the girl isn't going to leave her father behind. He can never tie a tie, he tends to overdress for these things, and it's the one day of the year he really drinks. Meanwhile, the girl has her own situation unfolding. She'd had the same boyfriend since orientation of freshman year. She also has this boozy friend, who questions how wise that has been, especially with the real world starting up in a few months. The girl and the boyfriend--who we also learn is close with the father, who seems to view him as a possible--though who knows how it will work out--son-in-law.
They're coming down this huge flight of stairs to go to the first football game of the season, the last first football game. The leaves have come off the trees early, there's all of this moisture underneath them--which is what happens when leaves fall and there are still warm, wet, summer-ish days ahead--and they're touching each other as they go down these stairs, partially so they don't slip, but also because that's how they tend to be. The girl shares what her friend says, and the boy, well, he doesn't exactly disagree. At the bottom of the stairs he says something like, "let's just enjoy the game," but from that trip just from the top to the bottom, their relationship has changed. It goes on hiatus eventually.
The girl sets this deadline in her mind, for when they can start up again, they'll be closer than ever after what occurred, their respective experimentation with freedom. We learn about this camping trip she took with her dad and a friend when she was a kid, and how the friend's leg snapped, and what happened in these woods, what the father had to do. She's not telling him any of this as she ties the tie. She's acting like she's still with the boy. They reconnected somewhat the night before, that Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving, going to dinner together, before the boy goes home. And that night, the girl, still on campus, is at a party, and she makes a decision to do something, which she hadn't ever done before, and there's really, in a way, a kind of feeling of no going back from that point. At least not the same.
And she finishes tying the tie, suggests to her dad that they have some coffee in the kitchen before they go. The whole story unfurls in that act, covering all of that time, all of those time periods, all of those different relationships configurations, all of those changes.
We'll come back to the others later.
I gave this interview on Downtown, which is completely unlike anything anyone can hear on the radio anywhere, be it now, in the past, or I should imagine in the future. The conversation covers, among other topics: LeBron James, Buster Keaton, Jimmy Reed, Laurel and Hardy, Christopher Cross, malaria, Ned Martin, J.M. Barrie, Rodin, J.S. Bach, Van Gogh, Carlton Fisk, Orson Welles, Satchel Paige, Popsicles, Sam Cooke, Wayne Gretzky, the publishing industry, my sister’s kids, Yaz, and the dude known as watermelon man. Plus a guy who lives on a boat in the harbor. And Otis Redding.
This piece ran in JazzTimes on the intersection between the COVID-19 frontlines, and what we can glean from the jazz standard, "St. James Infirmary."
And I also covered fifty-seven miles on foot, and ran 7800 stairs. I should add that, as always, the majority of what I do is not what along the lines of what I just described--it's writing people in this industry who hate me, because I do, each week, what I just described. Every single week is this way. Every single last week. And the more weeks there are like that, and the less arguable it is that you're not doing things no one else does do or can do, the more they will hate you. It's kind of like a perfect curse. Sit back, do nothing, have no talent, achieve nothing, nothing will happen if you're not one of them, while they put people forward who have no talent, sit back, do nothing, who are all but born into their system. That's not going to happen for you if you're not one of them. But, know more, write better, achieve more, work your ass off, produce art every single day, and they will try to make sure that nothing happens because you do those things. There is no greater Catch-22.
What do you do? Well, you do what I'm doing, I'd say. You keep getting better, you keep going, you keep showing the infinite gap between yourself and the people of the system, you do this journal, you say the truth about what they are, how they conduct themselves, what they are about, the horrible work they put forward, and eventually, you get to where you're trying to get. Which is a place, for me, far beyond where any of them are trying to get to.
As for this week: yesterday marked 1505 days--or 215 weeks--without a drink. On Saturday, I walked twenty miles, ran 2600 stairs at BC. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year. Each year, I like to have one day where I cover thirty miles on foot. That might seem like an arbitrary number, but it is not. For one thing, that's a bear to walk that much. It's a good test--walk thirty miles, you're probably pretty healthy. Walk thirty miles in 95 degree heat, and you're a kind of beast. For another, it is thirty miles from Boston to the house I am trying to get back in Rockport, and with each and every last step of those thirty miles I walk, I think about that house, I think about the life I want and deserve, I think about what has been done to me, in one case by the evil person--so evil that you can't even get mad about it; it's just someone you avenge yourself upon later when you have the platform for the truth of the story to be seen--I was married to, and this evil industry. I keep my heart strong, so that I can endure more stress and suffering than I believe anyone else could. So yesterday I walked thirty miles, and I ran 2600 stairs. Fifty miles on foot for the weekend, 5200 stairs.
Then I awoke today at four, and started working again.
I did a lot of work yesterday in my head on that walk. You lose so much fluid, that you can actually see piles of salt on your arms, the backs of your legs. I drink a lot of water, Gatorade, but eventually there comes a time when you just stop sweating, no matter how hot it is.
This is pretty early on in the venture--after walking the first ten miles and running the stairs. I've not been wearing my hat of late, which makes me less hot--though it's negligible--while bounding up those stairs, but sweat streams into my eyes and it's hard to keep both open.
By the end of the circuit, I was somewhat maroon-ish in color.
I need something to talk about on Downtown tomorrow, and what I think that will be is art for kids. That is, it's the dog days of summer, kids have been out of school for a long time, how about some books, shows, films, music, to entertain and educate your kid, maybe inspire some passion? Now, no one will actually care about any of this, and I am convinced that most people just don't give a fuck about anything. So, really, I guess it's just an excuse to talk about this stuff, which, again, probably no one will care about, because it's interesting, and I find that very few people care about anything interesting.
Look at what trends on Twitter. When is it ever interesting? When is it not imbecilic? Now, you can be like, wait, whoa, why are you doing this then, I thought your entire thing was to do interesting work? Not my entire thing, but that's part of it, yes, and the reason is, everything changes when you become a commodity to be talked about. (My biggest thing, I would say, is connecting with people at the level of who they are.) People who would not give a toss about you or your work prior to that, all of a sudden care. And buy it. I think, too, that in my case, the work will work on those people, because it's so unlike anything else. It does things no work does. And it's always new.
But I see these parents, and their kids ask them questions, and the parents just say whatever they want. Well, not even what they want--I think they have no clue what he answer is, so they tell the kid something untrue.
People almost always think they are correct, and when you have no one who knows anything, you have a society where everyone can say whatever they please, and never be challenged, because it's not like anyone else knows. (What some people like to say to this is, "Roar, look at Trump! He says anything he pleases," the implication being that the person saying this to you does not, and I always think, "Ha, look at yourself, dude.") That's the world in 2020. And if you do know, you will pay the price. Because people don't like that. At least as things stand presently.
I was at this facility that stood by a park. And there was a photo of what the land used to look like before the park was developed, and prior to there being these breezy, leafy lanes there. Kind of looked like this scab of earth. Black and white photo. That was the before picture. Then, you had the current photo, the "after." The caption of the former said something about urban blight. This kid asks his mom what blight is. And she goes, "disease." While looking at the photo. Now the kid's looking at it like some plague kind of deal has gone down.
I see this sort of thing all the time. There are questions about what words mean, history, art, animals--lots of animal questions--and the parents almost never know. "Eh, it's a baby pigeon." Actually, it's a house sparrow. So, what I will talk about will be the 1937 animated short, Lonesome Ghosts--streaming on the Disney app; Mozart's "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" variations; the Three Investigators mystery series (for the YA crowd); the children's book Ben and Me; Laurel and Hardy's The Music Box; Audubon's bird plates. You know what you do? You get a cheap coffee table book of Audubon's bird plates, and you stick it on your living room table, and your kid flips through it, gets into it, just absorbs stuff when they're not doing anything else. And who knows, maybe it helps instill a love of nature, and who knows, maybe that love of nature sees them through a tricky period after their failed first marriage, and who knows, maybe they meet someone wonderful after and they're ready to have a great life with them. This is life. This is how a healthy life works. It's this stuff, this is what adds up to mental health over the course of a lifetime. The blue jay plate is my favorite. The text is wonderfully written, it's funny, charged with wonder.
We'll talk about what the appeal of these works can be for kids, why they're apt for holding a child's attention, and also what adults and parents can get from them.