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Get back, JoJo

Monday 5/1/19

A couple Boston sports things to begin. I saw Dan Shaughnessy on NBC Sports Boston tonight. I could dust these people on this show. It's a mix of people who have been around forever, and millennials. Shaugnessy is fine for what he is as a writer--he's a hacky-y columnist who can turn a better phrase than people tend to think. But he is on auto-pilot. Talk about mailing in your life. Same thing, same attitude, same block of thoughts--with different proper nouns--over and over and over again. He tried to talk about hockey. He knows nothing about hockey. Hockey is such a thinking person's game. Hockey is the athletic version of whist played at a much faster speed, with high-level geometry mixed in. The smarter you are, the better you will understand hockey. You know who hockey would make sense to? Schubert. A Schubert symphony has a lot in common with a well-played hockey game. Most people who write and talk about sports are frauds. They have no idea what they are talking or writing about. They wanted to be athletes, they were not athletes, this is how they compensated. But with no sport do they sound nearly so lost as when they try to talk hockey. With football, they talk attitude. With basketball, they talk personalities. With baseball, they only talk home run and strikeout. I saw the Red Sox won 12-2 today. I didn't see any of the game. Looking at the score, I can't tell you if they played well or not. There is a rhythm, a crispness, to a baseball team playing well. Things move with the finely-wrought calibration of the Ellington band when a baseball team is really firing. People don't talk about this.

I saw today--because my JazzTimes editor, a good Boston man--well, a displaced Boston man; he lives in NYC now--posted something about Koji Uehara retiring. I thought Uehara was still pitching somewhere, but I did not know the specifics. A lot of these guys go back to their home countries and play a few more seasons. Something to consider: it's been a notable century thus far for the Boston Red Sox, with many standout campaigns from their top players. You could argue that Uehara's 2013 season was better than all of them, and, what is more, the best season a reliever--or certainly a closer--has had in the 150 years that professional baseball has existed. I would have had no problem with him winning the MVP that season. He was remarkable.

Speaking of JazzTimes: on Thursday I will be returning to Rockport--alas, just for the evening--to take in a Pat Metheny concert which I will be writing about. If you don't know me, or what happened to me on the personal front--which I talk about less in these pages than the war I am in with an industry that wishes to suppress and destroy me--I will just say that something evil, plotted, and of the greatest, max level of betrayal, was done to me in Rockport, the place on earth I love more than any other. The place I am fighting to return to. When you see these pages and think, "Jesus Christ, when does this guy stop? Does he just work and create and train so he can work and create some more?" it's worth my noting that part of that motivation stems from my desire, my need, my soul's clarion insistence, to return to Rockport, and get my house back. Even when I think about taking my own life, and not having to be in this fight any longer, I wonder, as I try to decide, if in some other world I would live in that world's version, its recreation, of Rockport. Someone recently asked me when I had last been back. It's been a while. Last fall. The pain is too great. Seeing my house is rapes my soul. It pins my soul down, and it brutalizes it, rapes it right through the ground, rapes it so hard it embeds it, buries it, then pisses over it, then brings out a knife to cut into it and carry on the torture. In short, it is upsetting. Years ago I should have had the money to buy whatever house I wished, and to literally stand outside, to be so close and so far, to have one's entire existence be an extended mind-fuck of kills you alive. When you are daily killed alive, you'd rather be killed dead. It is very hard for me to go there right now, though I love this place like I would venture few people have ever loved anything.

This is a new piece I wrote for JazzTimes looking at the jazz chops and artistry of the recently deceased Doris Day. This is a new piece I wrote for The Daily Beast on the 1939 novel, Detour, which became the Edgar G. Ulmer film noir of the same name in 1945. I will write about Booth Tarkington for the TLS. His serious novels. I wrote about his humor novels for the VQR, before the new regime banned me. That was a great place, when Ralph Eubanks was in charge, before they forced him out. It didn't help his cause there that he was a good person, a true professional, incredibly accomplished, and a fan of good writing, not perpetually trotting out the Lydia Davises of this world, which the current VQR is all about.

I sold an essay on how painting has informed my writing, which also centers on a novel by Maupassant, to The Smart Set. Later this week, I will have an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, arguing that the NHL playoffs are the best thing going in sport, because they are the least oriented around a class system. So, the anti-publishing, you might say. Tomorrow on the radio, I will discuss a belt of films from 1939. Four of which are overlooked, but deserve commendation and fresh eyes--Only Angles Have Wings, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, Jesse James, The Saint in London. Then two others, from different angles: The Wizard of Oz as a horror film, and Renoir's The Rules of the Game as perhaps the finest film ever made.

I have come up with a new essay on someone I will call a challenging person--my late great aunt Dorothy, my good grandmother's sister. My other grandmother did not approve of me being adopted, and called me a bastard, though she reformed her ways--I think she really did try--later in life. But my good grandmother was one of the few people in this world who has truly loved me. She lived with my aunt Dot, who, well, she was a character. Sometimes I try and tabulate how many people she must have called fat. If you had known her when I had known, you might not have thought she was the best or kindest person, but I learned things about her, from before I was born, that would perhaps make you reassess that. Which has gotten me thinking about what makes a good person, what doesn't, how one can be both; how maybe even the best people have extended stints of being anything but.

It was eighty degrees today. I detest the heat. I walked three miles, and climbed the Monument five times. I mentioned earlier that I had written 2200 words of a new short story; this was my second writing session for it. I will likely finish the work in the morning. After climbing, I showered, then went to Starbucks to read Dorothy Macardle's Uneasy Freehold, which became the 1944 film, The Uninvited. The book was referenced, in fact, in the first story, "Terry from the Cape," in my Between Cloud and Horizon. I think I can do an essay on the book--the Macardle book, not my book--in the early autumn. But Emma was locked out, as per usual, so she was at Starbucks. She should have been at therapy, but she did not go again, so I remonstrated her--gently, of course. Her therapist actually called when we were sitting there, and Emma was contrite. So wise in some ways, such a kid in others. But she can't be skipping these visits. It seems that she has a good patch, and gets lax about what helped bring about the good patch. I guess we are all that way. I'm not now, at all, because I have no good patches. But you can wager anything that if I do, ever again, I will be ultra-vigilant. Mindful of what I have, always in that moment, always focused on fostering more such moments. That is how you think when you are new Job, not at all certain--in fact, terrified that the converse is true--that you will ever be rewarded, that your suffering will abate, that mercy and succor and what you had coming all along, and should have long had before, will be there in the end, with enough time left to live that life. So Emma and I went through my Tinder. She's bi. So she's useful with her takes on the ladies. "No, swipe left, ugh, I cannot believe you swiped right on her, she sucked." Etc.

I had posted an excerpt--it was the entire second section--of my new story-in-progress, "Post-Fletcher," earlier. This is how the entire shebang begins. So work backward with me.

It was the “we” part that made Fletcher nervous, more than the reference to a problem.

You could deal with a problem, avoid a problem, solve a problem, drink a problem away, ignore a problem, kill yourself and duck out under a problem, but a coerced “we—a “we” created without your consent—was harder to get clear of, because then it wasn’t just you, it was you and someone who had bound themselves to you.

It made him uneasy when people roped him into a “we.”

“So it seems like we have a problem here,” Ruslein posited at the beach during the town’s founder’s day celebration. Kids were running around with sparklers even though it was early afternoon and the sun seemed to be firing off its rays like lasers in a video game to zap away the clouds. Old Man McCauley had probably given them away at his pharmacy.

Fletcher still had what felt like tiny bricks and balls of sleep-sand in his eyes, because he tried to stay unconscious as long as possible as he hated being awake.

Ruslein—Russ as everyone called him—was a town selectman, which is why he had taken Fletcher aside, ushering him towards the water line, which, in this setting, he viewed as office-like. This was very tricky official business. He had to let Fletcher know that he was haunting his own house, never mind that he was not dead yet.

“So. I’ve given it to you straight,” he concluded, after he had blurted out the nature of the situation. “Straighter than a weather vane.” He thought this metaphor, which he had worked on, would be an efficacious capper, and you needed a rock solid capper for something like this.

“I really don’t want any trouble here,” Fletcher countered. “I’m sure it’s just a shadow.”

“If it were just a shadow, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Believe me, it’s not one I’ve been looking forward to having with you. It’s not like I get up and say to myself, ‘Well, Fletcher barely interacts with anyone for a while now, you might say he’s given up on life and barely alive, so if he does manage to put in an appearance at the beach on Saturday, I’ll sidle up to him and tell him that his own ghost is floating around his own house, and won’t that be a fun conversation?’ Hell no, man. I know you’ve been navigating a rough patch.” He looked towards the incoming breakers and spat. “But this is not a tenable situation. It’s not like it has to be fixed right away. It’s not like ghost-you has attacked anyone. No popping out of bushes and raping women”

“Why would any version of me rape women?”

“I’m not saying you would, strictly speaking. But this is a wraith we’re talking about.”

“You don’t know it’s a wraith. A wraith is malevolent.” It felt weird to be defending this ghost version of himself. “Technically, if I’m alive and I have a ghost, I’m still me and the ghost is called a fetch.”

“Well, you are named Fletcher. It’s close. People with your name might be more inclined to have this sort of thing happen.”

“That’s not my point.”

Bloody good, right? Remember: they don't want you to see that. They want you to see this. (Which you won't, of course, if you are a normal person out in the world, because the intended demographic here are the residents of this sick house of a hermetically-sealed world, the subculture that is large parts of publishing.) Gar-bage. It's not even garbage. I've insulted garbage. My bad, garbage. Garbage is at least honest.

In conversation with Kimball the other day on Downtown, he mentioned bad Elvis soundtrack albums. They weren't as bad as people thought. I think a lot of people who haven't heard them call them bad. For instance, this is from Pot Luck, and it's one of Elvis's better performances, and I'm including the Sun sides, the early RCA sessions, the '68 Comeback, the 1969 Memphis sessions. The band smokes. Listen to how the drums and the piano--don't forget, it's a percussion instrument--intertwine themselves. And also Scotty Moore's stinging, distortion-laced licks. And, of course, the song's theme, you might say, meshes with some of what I said above. No singer, ever, would phrase the start of the titular line like Elvis does. Listen to how he uses--by creating--a caesura to set up his vocal line. No other singer would wait like that. He risks missing the line altogether. But he knows exactly what he is doing.

Between this and that, are you not now pumped?


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