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First weekend of new year

Monday 1/3/22

Writing a new story now, heading out for a bit to run stairs. On Friday I woke up at half past twelve, quite cold, and still stick, but after six or seven hours, I decided to run stairs because I was having a hard time not exercising. I did 3000. Then on Saturday and Sunday I did 5000 each day, but it was a bit of an effort, especially on Sunday. My wind is still off. All stairs are different one learns when running stairs, and stairs in different seasons are different. One might think that running stairs in summer is hardest, because of the heat and humidity, but there are challenges in winter as well. You have to go out in layers, and then those layers become soaked through with sweat. That makes them heavier, of course, and when you rest you start to freeze quickly. Starting again, you're cold, drenched, and then you reheat all of that.

Yesterday marked 2009 days, or 287 weeks, without a drink.

The first record I listened to this year was Dick's Picks Vol. 22, the Grateful Dead at Kings Beach Bowl in Lake Tahoe, in February 1968. The first film I watched was The Story of the Dancing Frog, an animated short from 1989 that moved me. It's about a woman who loses her sea captain husband but discovers a dancing frog in a pond and the life they make together. It's sweet and wise. The story is told by a mom to her son on a rainy day, and their interactions are also sweet and come across as believable. Watched another animated film, Abel's Island, from 1988, about an intellectual mouse who is carried away in a storm from his wife, life, and town, and has to survive on his own. Listened to all of Billie Holiday's Decca recordings--many while running stairs--as well as a couple episodes of the podcast Uncanny, the Who at the Fillmore East in April 1968, Carl Perkins on the BBC in 1964, and two Sherlock Holmes radio broadcasts with Carleton Hobbs as the detective--"The Musgrave Ritual" and "The Engineer's Thumb." The former aired two weeks before the Beatles dispatched Pete Best and brought in Ringo Starr. I like to get at ground level like that, get right into the culture and the times when various other things were happening. To get a feel for the air, one might say. I'll immerse myself, like I am there, thinking, "You would have heard this on this day, and then a fortnight later there would have been this bit of news." It helps me understand better. I was this way in high school and I recall a teacher pointing out to me that I didn't just know the lines of Shakespeare verbatim, I always knew what act and scene they were from. That was part of my understanding.

When I was sick in bed unable to sleep, I found other things to do. I won't waste the time. I created a new story which will be a big one, called "Birchbark," and added to the list of things I might write about this year: the haunted house episode of The Andy Griffith Show, Winslow Homer's final painting, The Mummy for Valentine's Day, Withnail and I for Easter, the Stones' "Still a Fool," Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space," Chimes at Midnight, Thoreau and Christmas, Audubon's writings, a Jack Kerouac op-ed, an op-ed for the Super Bowl.

Also watched the recent Gatiss adaptation of James's "The Mezzotint," plus "The Ash Tree" and "The Tractate Middoth" in the same A Ghost Story for Christmas series. "The Mezzotint" attempts to create jeopardy for the main character, the lack of which is arguably a flaw of the short story. The James effort is like a scientific study, with the main character and people he knows observing the changes in the mezzotint. Almost like it's an experiment and a kind of psychical detective work. They're never at risk or in danger, though. What is happening is separate from them. They're merely observing it.

Saw where someone wrote this today: "Well, I always try to remember there's absolutely nothing new under the sun. All one can do is take an existing idea, give it a new coat of paint, turn it over, lean it against the wall, and hope us cranky old geezer bastards who've seen it dozens of times will like the new color and angle of the tilt."

What an appalling, depressing, limiting, idiotic attitude. People thought the same thing 10,000 years ago, and it was equally as untrue then as it is untrue now. There's always something new. Every last thing I do is new and unique. There's always something new to be invented. If you're good enough. You don't think people thought this way and then Dickens did A Christmas Carol? What a terrible way to go through life, thinking like this. And I'll tell you: I hate this kind of defeatist shit. It sickens me. I cannot stand that kind of person. The opposite of everything I'm about. It's like the people who love to think of themselves as old so that they never have to try anymore, when they hardly ever tried for starters. And people do love it. Most love it. They love to call themselves old. I wrote an amazing story about this recently called "There Is No Young and There Is No Old," which is a major work that everyone should read. People are just recycling the same little factoids about Betty White, and those factoids--that she was alive for every Yankees championship, for instance--seem to me to miss the entire larger point. Betty White was my age before the Beatles started recording the White Album. So was she old? Winter 1968. Then she dies on the last day of 2021. It's not even sensical. All of those decades in front of her. Jobs, work, relationships, homes, people, places she went to. The Golden Girls was almost twenty years off in the future, and now we think of that show as being from a long time ago and this person was alive the other day. I run the stairs because I am not old and I will never be old. I run the stairs and do what I do so that I can be eighty, I can be ninety, and I can be inventing a new form of literature. I can always be starting. Old is when you're stopping. When you're not trying. Old is not about age. I know so many people in their thirties and forties who might as well be fossils entombed in the layers below a creek bed. They don't live. They stopped living probably when they were children. I look at them as dead people I know. And they love it--they will never pass up a chance to say how old they're getting. They'll post on social media, "gosh, this makes me feel old." It's sad, it's pathetic, and they just feed that beast. But yeah, I flat out hate that defeatist shit. Flat out fucking hate it.

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