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Fear's place; latest matchlessness

Monday 11/18/19

I didn't have a very productive weekend and that is not okay right now, and to myself I say, I hope you are ready to fight this week, I hope you are ready to explode into creation and take on whom you need to take on on your own. Fear can go just about anywhere, and it has a right to, and it will, but fear has no place in the soul.


I will say what I did do over the weekend. I sent letters to The Sun, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Granta, Esquire. None of it will matter, and at some point here I am going to have to sue The Atlantic for discrimination. Also wrote Boulevard. The TLS. I sent an excellent op-ed proposal about the kind of person who supports Colin Kaepernick--it's always the same kind of person--to The New York Times, which will be summarily ignored, because they hate me on account of the quality and quantity of my ideas, and that I went out and started writing lots of op-eds at lots of venues after doing my first one for them. Here, that means punishment, and banishment. I estimate that in terms of the opportunities, work, jobs, these particular things from this one weekend ought to lead to $500K in revenue. "Fitty" being sold here, staff position given here, full-time op-ed gig here, and so on. I came up with the bulk of a new short story, called "Wet Test," and the idea--I am letting it grow--for something radical called "Jesus Fucks." I came up with a fine Wall Street Journal op-ed idea, which would need to run December 6 or so, so I will pitch that today or tomorrow. Another school shooting. I read the details. The details are what get you the most, sear you the most. I have a story in "Fitty" that would make a difference in this world, which the world needs to read, experience. It will do what no fiction in any of these venues has done. And it is right here, the time is now, it is now more than ever, until the nowness quotient is further upped. And it's so obvious to any sane third party with a clear head and a lack of axes to grind what it is. Anyone without prejudice and hate, and competence, can see it for what it is. But that's not who you're dealing with.


Yesterday marked 1267 days without a drink. I watched the second season of The End of the Fucking World. Not good. They had told their story--this was a cash-in. There was no narrative left. The work functions as a kind of music video. It's lazy. It's just one song after another meant to be deep and symbolic. Maybe just let the drama happen sometimes? Maybe don't aurally tell us how to feel constantly? The first season is the one work of quality I've seen from Netflix's original programming. I read Dick Donovan's "The White Raven," a kind of Christmas horror story, from his 1899 collection, Tales of Terror. Yesterday I walked three miles and climbed the Monument three times. Pretty poor showing. I got my mom a card, which I will mail today, along with a letter--brief for now--to my uncle Gerard, and a copy of "Fitty."


He had written me a while back about wanting to have a better relationship--he's my godfather--and communicate more, so I am going to start doing that. Last night I was harrying around the North End trying to find brown paper bags during the second half of the Patriots game for Emma's lunches. She does not eat all day at school she told me, and she's there some days until five o'clock. I don't know what the deal is with that, so I just decided that I'll put something together for her everyday. On Friday I was at the desk composing, and I hear her outside picking up the bag and saying "thank you" to my door. I do love her so much. Today it was an apple, granola bar, seaweed snacks, low salt peanuts (actually, shit--is this illegal? I wasn't even thinking that), peanut butter cup, mini Kit Kat.


People keep dropping me on Twitter. No idea why. Doesn't matter. Not going to matter. There is no one there anyway. I've just accepted it. I completely invalidate the platform. You can create art constantly, you can have that art appear in the most prominent venues, you can say entertaining, fascinating things, better than anyone could say them, you can be what people actually enjoy reading, hope to see, but if you are me, you're going to have less followers than a ninety-two-year-old man who got Twitter at the rest home with the help of his great granddaughter, because he doesn't have a lot to do. Am I cursed? Well, you certainly see evidence of a curse constantly. But I also can't let that matter too much right now, even if that's the case. I still have to try. What could offend someone? The accomplishments? Sorry. If it heartens you, I have an entire industry against me, and you likely do not. The reality? Sorry. People might still be with Kaepernick--always the same kind of person, though--as I saw in a trending Twitter phrase, but I am still with reality. Or maybe they were offended that I said some kind words about Aaron Cohen's new book on Chicago soul musicians, or Gracie Terzian's new Christmas EP. Sorry. I try to help people, even with what I have going on.


I received a very nice note here on the site from a professor about the WSJ humansplaining piece. He thanked me for writing it. What that means--and there's been a bunch of this--is "thank you for saying what no one else has the courage to say right now, true though it is." I'll beacon it up. Part of this, ultimately is going to be being the beacon. That's a big this, but I'm a big beacon. He had a line that will be pretty hard to top this week, when he said that some people really should get to know his mother-in-law if they want a lesson in being lectured and interrupted. That was pretty good. All I ever said was it's people. It's not men, it's not women, it's not this group is great, that group sucks. What Joe does to you, Jenny is just as likely to. The forms might change somewhat, but the ideas don't. Call them patterns of wretchedness if you want to be a Bitter Bierce about it.


You can put so much power into an indentation where a new paragraph starts. You can put emotional atomic energy in that short gap of white space. As I write this entry, I am working on one of the new stories. I don't know what I am going to call it yet.


Someone writes me yesterday and says that they see I am a writer, what is my genre, and what I like to write about? I can't deal with this kind of thing. As John says, "these people should not have access to you. It's like Dylan going down to the Bell and Hand for songwriters night, but so, so much worse. And people sidle up to you, simple people with no talent, and they want to equate themselves to you and what you're doing, put you in their simple terms. It's like if I hung out with Tom Brady, and I said, 'Tom, if you go to the Subway on Main Street and tell them I sent you, they'll give you twenty-five percent off.' People who tell themselves they are writers, who have no talent, want to have that moment with you. Then brag about it to people. It sucks that you have to deal with that right now."


I responded by saying that it's not really like that. The "that" being the idea that I do a genre or that it's fun to write about A and B is fun but not as fun! I leave it there. We're done. But people don't like to leave it there. You don't need me to tell you any of this, or provide any answers. Spend five minutes on the site. Have a glance at the blog. If you read much at all, you already know who I am, even with an industry making sure that my name is suppressed. You will simply run into my work, often, and it is very different work from the work that is out there. A universe immediately starts to open up. It's not the universe you had previously known, even if you only knew yours a little. They are going to write me five more times now, I am not going to read it, because it's not good for me, but I will see a final note that says how "fabulous and fun" my life is, clearly. Yep. Sure. That's what this is. Fabulous and fun. I'm dealing with the greatest form of injustice and discrimination there has been, and it's fabulous and fun.


Knowing that if I cure cancer these people will hate me even more, if that is even possible, is fabulous and fun. I didn't mean to look at that one. I thought it was from Julia in New Mexico, perhaps, telling me about how the rest of her weekend went. I like Julia because she is smart, and she has tact. That may sound like a small thing, but it isn't. She can navigate social situations. She has a good way with people. I focus on people like that, how they talk, the choices they make in their interactions. I find that one can learn from them. Or measure in regards to. They might make a choice I have also made to leave something alone, and I will weigh my reasons against theirs. They can be the same reasons. Or they might leave something alone that I would not. Maybe I should have. Maybe I should not have at all. Everything I do, at this point, is a structured, conscious decision. I will make no move without having thought something through dozens of ways. Now, I might have those dozens of ways in the space of half a second, because of how my mind works. But there is no acting out, no caprice, no losing of temper, no reaction that stems primarily from emotion. If you are part of a Twitter mob and you come for me, I will take you apart, systematically. The same way I will write a story. If I light you up on this blog, and I expose your bigotry, your cronyism, I have weighed every last pro and con of doing so, and I will be surgical. And no one is going to trip me up, or veer me from my course. I am pure cognition at this point. Pure cognition further illuminated by burning passion, humanness, the extra that I have, and heart and soul.


I thought there was a great chance the Patriots would lose yesterday and I expected them to, but was pleased to see them win. Less pleased with the offense. Bruins lost another shootout. Maybe their record in these matters is not as bad as I suspect it is, but any time I've seen them in a shootout this year they've lost. Even if that's not a real loss.


Emma wrote her slam poem for class. I didn't see it. Sometimes she has this secret squirrel routine. She doesn't want you to see what she wrote and drew.


There is a woman I reached out to yesterday. She's friendly, I like her. She heads up a magazine I used to pitch a lot. I never once wrote for them. I think she's twenty years or so my senior. I didn't realize that she was dealing with Stage 4 breast cancer. I happened to be reading a post, and she was saying that it becomes hard to know how to be in the world with that going on. By "be," she meant act, feel. Be. She added that she still pursues dating with all of this happening. I really admired that. It's grim enough, dating. The vapidity of the human abyss you're constantly staring into as one more person references The Office or tells you how they get along best with Leos. Maybe spend less time wit the shitty version of The Office and the Zodiac and more time mastering the difference between then and than? So I wrote her and told her that and said if there was anything I could do, please let me know. There was a time I wouldn't have said that, because what am I going to do? They're not going to ask. But you never know. Making the offer and meaning it, though, is something. Another thing. People might not call someone something because they think it's too much, or whatever. But very few people have ever been offended or thought you were out of line when you called them your friend. They were happy you felt that way about them. I don't mean in the social media sense. That's not real. That's not friendship. That's usually enabling. We all know what real friendship, or even just gestural friendship--which is what I am talking about in this paragraph--and the repeated patterns of concern, rapprochement, the give and take of legit kindness and empathy. Even if your friendship is primarily gestural or from a distance. I'm not talking about my friendship with John or Emma. I don't know. Something to think about.


As I said, I have been formally composing as I create this latest journal entry. The story now has a name. It's called "Fare." I'm going to put up an excerpt here. This, of course, is what the people of publishing do not want the world to see. This is what they seek to suppress. Because it is by me. I don't need to say what this is. Anyone who reads it knows what it is. Here we go.


***

“I think you can bypass traffic around the greenway, if you head up here, on State.”


Ramon peered into his glass, as if his eyes were swimming in it. Backstrokes. All the easier to look back. He always called it his glass. Sounded more enchanted, like something from a book his daughter, Tia, would enjoy at night when he read to her. She could sense the arrival of the penultimate page, even with a new book, the moment the words contained upon that second-to-last leaf took their parachuted leap from the threshold of his mouth, for Tia liked him to read softly, albeit demonstrably. “Will you read it again?” she’d ask, before he had even finished, finding open space, as if it were waiting for her, in a break in his cadence, the gathering of a little more wind for a following sentence.


“But we are not done yet,” he’d say. “It has not even been one time.”


“But the time is almost over.”


He considered the veracity of her remark.


“That’s true,” he added. “And awake time, too, for the day, is now over.”


Such a line would be his form of a riposte, for he believed that there is a hug-version of a rejoinder, and this fit the bill. He considered his response literary, consistent with what they had been doing. True, there was a conflict of interests. One one hand, he hoped she’d admire his verbal flourish and yet agree that it was time for sleep. On the other, he was not able to be with her much, and he would really like to read the story to her again.


Once more he squinted into the rear view mirror, looking at the child in the backseat of his taxi. He was fond of telling his wife Nora that he saw better in the evening, that it made his eyeballs concentrate, that was how he put it, which made Tia laugh, but this child had tight lips. A clear voice and tight lips.


“You’re a very smart young boy,” Ramon ventured. He did not know why the child was riding to the medical center. Rarely did he ask anyone questions. Once a man had a cardiac arrest in his cab, and after he had pulled out of the lane of traffic and ripped open the man’s shirt, sending buttons flying and then dialing 911, he asked the man if that helped, but that wasn’t really a question so much as something he said to himself to try to become less scared. That’s what a lot of life was, he figured. There was seeking gain, and family, but even comfort and the people who loved you, whom you loved, were part of that compact, that questing compact, of trying to become less scared. He felt scared for the child in the backseat of his car, even as the child’s eyes remained unblinking, waiting for his in the glass, buoyant and plumb, while his did their strokes.


He looked a third time, maintaining, as he normally did, a cumulative total in his head. You didn’t wish to look too much, even if you were subtle about it—one simply got better at being undetected over the years. Life hack of a hack driver. The child’s eyes were not accusatory and they met his, detecting him, his curiosity, his concern, openly, reflectively, silvered mirrors. They were egg-shaped. He knew that noses and ears never stopped growing the entire time you were alive, and now he wondered about eyes. Nor did they blink. The lights from passing cars and maybe a street lamp reflected off of them, even if was only a few seconds.


“I’m a girl,” the child said, and Ramon looked harder, realizing that he hadn’t really had to look that hard at all. She had short hair, shorter than his, dyed red. It was not combed uniformly—he thought perhaps the word was “styled”—but rose in tufts that reminded him of the parapets of the castles in the books he read to Tia. She loved castles so much that she would say, “Let’s go castling, daddy,” on the occasions when he asked what they should read next, and she was in the mood for maidens.


“I am sorry, little miss,” he offered by way of apology. “I don’t see very well at night…” This struck him as a faux pas. A concerning admission. As if a surgeon were to say, “I only drink after work.” “I don’t see very well when I look over my shoulder,” he went on, “just because my neck, I have this nerve, it is pinched, I cannot turn very well. I see the road great. There are no worries with the road.”


“I wasn’t upset,” the girl said.


“Your hair is very short, and, you look, well, I saw you walk to the car, and I thought, ‘now there is an athlete, I bet that person plays on their seventh or eighth grade volleyball team. Or basketball. You know what they say about the word ‘assume.’”


“No. What?”


“Eh?”


“I don’t know. Will you tell me?”


This was a strange ride. “It means, when we assume, we make an ass out of you and me. My wife, she doesn’t like when I say that. A fare told me the joke once.”


“A fare being a rider in your cab.”


“Yes.”


“Like me. You would say that I had been your fare.”


“I would say that near the end of one of my shifts, in the beginning of November, once, I picked up a very smart young woman.”


He thought his tone was reminiscent of a story he had recently read Tia, though he never remembered the plots, they scarcely registered as he relayed them. He was focused on her reaction. That was his story. He read a story to her, her response was a story for him.

“But between you and me, let’s say that the ‘ass’ part is a burrow, not the, you know, rear end.”


“That’s a good one,” the child confirmed. “And it’s ninth grade. I don’t play volleyball or basketball.”

“I am sure you would play them well if you did. You seem like the type.”


“That’s kind.” He looked a fourth time. Dipped his chin. It was less of a nod, and more of a thank you conveying that the note of gratitude is different, deeper, because of whom it seeks to reach and repay, to meet euphony with harmony. He reserved this manner of chin-dip for special instances. He felt this qualified. Different and interludic as it was.


“You said the medical center?”


“Mmmhhhm.”


Her face in the backseat reminded him of a penlight. He’d bought one for Tia and had been trying to decide when he ought to give it to her. Strictly speaking he would be breaking some rules that would not exactly thrill his wife Nora, but these were rules that had Nora broken them, he’d not exactly be thrilled either. There are some rules that each parent, he thought, wishes to break, and they divvy them up. Not on purpose. It just goes that way in a loving house. Those were the good rules to splinter—call it fragment them, a touch. Not rules about showing up for school on time, being as nice as possible to everyone, no swearing, wash your hands, don’t point out that thing growing above Aunt Margarite’s eye.


He trusted Tia, which was maybe a strange admission—or was it a concession?—for a parent to make about a child. He would give her the penlight, and tell her, if she still wished to look at her books after he had shut out the light, to do so for no more than a quarter of an hour. It would be their secret. He was only trying to decide if he should wait until she was able to read herself, or now would be okay, given that she liked the pictures, too. But the pictures were never as good as the words, when the words were good. She had said that to him and he had decided that it had the ring of truth. Anyone can toll a bell, he thought, but not quite as a child can. She’d keep it close to the fifteen minutes.


They rode along Tremont, with the Common on the right, the spreading shapes of darkened trees like bushy stalactites, urban speleothems forming columns down to the blotched-out asphalt that was impossibly witnessed and classified as such, discerned instead from experience and logic rather than the precise moment of the visual.


Process of elimination. It wasn’t water underfoot, the trees not mangroves, rather oaks and elms, but one could not make observational certainty from the cab while it bumped along, as if it were a living form feeling each manhole cover in the manner a teen is conscious of every last pimple when running hand over cheek.


“What are you thinking?” the child with the egg-shaped, silver eyes and the penlight glow of the face asked Ramon, who had dipped his chin again without realizing it.

“I was thinking of how you remind me of my daughter. She’s younger than you.”

“No basketball or volleyball?”


He let her see his smile in the glass. “No, not yet.”


He did not add that he trusted her, which seemed, again, maybe an odd admission, and one stranger yet when made aloud. Perhaps. Perhaps not. He felt that he trusted this new creature as well, which didn’t seem so very strange. Maybe that was strange, but he did not think so, even as he kept it to himself. He suspected she would know either way.