I fear that I am becoming intolerant and impatient. That this affects the few relationships, such as they are, that I do maintain. For seven years now I have gotten my head kicked in every day. There is no good news. I'm trying to get beyond people who have clearly blacklisted me. An industry that has blacklisted me. I got in this position because when my life came apart seven years ago, I went to a litany of new levels. What I convey as doing in these pages were not things I could have done eight years ago. I was talking to a friend yesterday. We speak of the supernatural sometimes. Because for a while, I said I was cursed and doomed. I looked at what was happening in my life and career, I looked at the numbers of my career--I mean, I'm a fellow with twenty-five Twitter followers, with all I do, for instance--and I couldn't account for how those numbers were earthly possible. No one could. I said to him yesterday, "Do you think if any one person did any one of these things they'd have these numbers?" To which he said--and my friend is very smart--"No, they wouldn't. But they would have been set up in the first place, had the friends in place, had it rigged for them, to get into places that you get into that you should not be able to get into because no one from the outside, on their own, just gets in. You somehow make that happen, constantly. They know they could not do in 500 years what you can do in fifteen minutes. And they hate you for that. Among other things they hate you for. No one like that is going to want that person around. You say you're cursed and doomed, but when I see the supernatural here, I see it in terms of how you create, the level of the work you create, how much you create. I know you. I know what your days look like, for the most part. I know you climb the Monument. I know you are walking everywhere. And then it's boom, here's another 3000 word masterpiece. You are like Picasso but with a printer, and you're just printing out masterpiece after masterpiece, just pushing the button. Like you just think it, and boom, it exists. You have to get past these people. We can't even talk about how the world doesn't read or care about art until you get past these people. Because I think it's going to be different with you, your work is not like anyone else's, and you can do so much. You are better than anyone on the radio. You are telling me someone won't be paying you six figures to talk on the radio about sports? Even meatheads would love hearing you, you're smarter and you're hilarious as fuck and you know sports better than anyone. You are telling me your stories won't be a series on HBO? You should have your first million by now and be building that up. You are so down all the time because you are always getting kicked in the face by people who flat out do not want to see you succeed and you don't focus on these things. But when I see the supernatural here, it's in what you do. Because I can't explain it. That's why asked you, remember, six months ago how much better you could get? Was there still room to get better? And you laughed. You told me that you could only get better, that it's just what happens with you, how it is, and that getting better makes your life worse, and that's the worst thing about your life. But these books, the Dark Marches, the Anglerfishes, "Pillow Drift," what you can do on radio, what you can do on a stage, what you can do with making films, it will be different when you get past these people. I can understand, though, how you feel like this is a nightmare that won't end, and a death sentence."
That was my friend John. I referenced him yesterday on Downtown. The Erasmus joke. We had been talking on the phone seconds before I went on, me standing outside of the Starbucks atop a stone block/bench, pacing two steps in each direction as I did the show. As I've experienced nothing but pain and bad news for seven years, I've advanced so far in my mind and my development as an artist that with the ceaseless pain and just overall badness, the horror and hell of every day, as I progress more and more mentally and artistically, that I notice every shortcoming now. I feel every shortcoming scraping against me. When you have happiness, or even respite, you get focused on that, on other things. Leisure helps your mind not focus as much, maybe. It makes your mind look away. I never look away. There is no leisure. It's all about creating, truth, beauty, meaning, and getting to where I'm going. Not just before I die, but soon, so that I can live a life of some peace, some happiness. Orson Welles said that your heart is God's little garden. My heart, when it comes to art, is God's most verdant forest. But I am holding people to standards sometimes that does not allow for how fallible, how massively fallible, really, humans can be. I feel like I don't belong in this world, that I am an alien with my mind, and it is so hard for me to balance what my mind is with what can be reasonably expected from another mind. It's getting to the point that I can't even listen to radio or the TV for the way people talk, the constant "um um ah um ah um ah you know um ah um ah" from people with no ability, no knowledge, who live in million dollar homes in Wellesley.
I said to John that I would have been better off, all of those years ago, if I took like a year or two off from trying to create, became a lazy, fat-assed slug, rather than making the push. Do you know that eight years ago, if I had a really short Rolling Stone piece to write--say, 200 words--that I was not comfortable writing it the day it was due and filing it? That was risky to me. When I spent that time alone in that house in Rockport, when I was writing Dark March, Anglerfish, Buried on the Beaches, simultaneously, while doing a 33 1/3 proposal (7500 words' worth of proposal on A Hard Day's Night; they turned it down), writing all of the magazine pieces, getting fucked hard by ESPN, dealing with lawyers, writing the wife who had ghosted me, everything changed. I then fought so hard to get to where I wanted to go, where I know the world will be well-served by me arriving there. I thought the quality of the work, the massing of the achievements, would help. But it hurt. It made for so much envy and hate. John would say that while this is true and obviously obvious--special kind of obvious--at this point, it created a unique body of work in the history of art, and opened up so many other possibilities for what can happen eventually. There was also a downturn in the world. The same person who was of a certain intelligence three years ago, is of a lesser one now. You see this when you're on dating sites and what not, interacting with hundreds of people at a time. You see the devolution in thinking, the parroting, the influence of whatever is going on on social media, the upswing in mental illness, in depression, in anger, in self-loathing, in disconnection, fear, what I call lockstep-ism. Language used to approximate bones. The scaffolding of communication. Now those bones have been broken and crushed into bits and dust, and you're left to try and build on that. Anger and self-loathing need outlets. Those outlets are not reflection and growth. People are just too weak and scared for that. The outlets thus become hate and attacks against others. You see how truth becomes more and more abused each year. Truth is raped by agenda. And I think, what am I doing here? I watch an industry kill off reading. I watch these places fold every week. I see no one able to connect the dots as to why that is happening, because these people have been fed so many lies in their sheltered lives by their family, the false achievement of independent/inherited wealth, their false friends, their fellow Literary Citizens, that they cannot accept or process truth any more. There is no perspective. All of these places are going away, and when it comes to fiction, all of them just published shit that no one could like. And they can't see it. Their worlds would come undone, these people who are always on the verge of coming undone as it is. They can't see why people are not reading. John would tell you that this is stage-setting for me. That I will be the agent of change, that this is all part of what is going to ultimately happen. But I cannot become some intolerant, anti-heart's garden person in the meanwhile in my personal interactions. Now, with some people, you just need to cut them out. If you're passive aggressive, at all, we are done, and I will waste no time with that and I know I will be correct in that decision. I deal with a lot of passive aggression. A lot stems from envy, from the insecurity I produce in people who are not secure in themselves. We all know what I am. We all know what the work is. People like to think that art is subjective? It actually isn't. Your preferences are subjective. But things are things in art, and my work objectively--the most objectively, I would say, easily, of any work there has been--is front and center full-on crystal clear obvious what it is. It's almost like science or math. And I'd be a fool to pretend that this were not so. We're in the post-obvious realm of things at this point. I know when you are being false. I know when you are up to no good. I know when you are projecting.
New Rivers Press wanted me to re-do the intro for the story anthology stemming from the contest I judged, so I did that. Washington Post editor wanted me to touch up the first paragraph of what is really this lovely piece on Keats--I skimmed it today--for Valentine's Day, so I did that. Today is what my parents called my Special Day. Meaning, this was the day they took me home from the foster home. At the foster home, I went by the name of Marshal. Perhaps my foster mother was a Gunsmoke fan? Here is a new piece that came out today in Rolling Stone on the Beatles' ten best concerts. And this is from a 2000 word piece I wrote this morning for The Daily Beast on Buddy Holly.
At the Holley family home (Buddy dropped the “e”) in late 1956, he repaired to his parents’ garage, all but inventing garage music right then and there, plugging in and letting it crank. What a noise came from the Holley family residence that Christmas season, as Buddy and his mates blasted away, pummel pummel pummel. This was rock and roll that left bite marks on your ass and you were glad to have them.
The cover of “Good Rockin’ Tonight” sucks some of the swing out of the Elvis version and gives it more drive, more of a forward lean into the next day, rather than a sashay across the party of the night. The blast through Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” is a salvo-canticle for voice and drums here at the Church of Rock next to the rakes and lawnmower. No one has ever sung like Buddy Holly. Rock singers can be like classical musicians in that they stick to what they’re supposed to stick to. Sure, they can add descants, mixes in their whoops and an “All right!” and “one more time!” and all that, but they’re not going off script like, say, a jazz singer will. The latter extemporize, and the script is composed as it is made, if you will—it’s like the film director saying, “okay, let’s try this scene by adlibbing it.”
Holly was something different, and you can hear it even at this early practice session. His vocals were always performative. He’d bounce around the script, adding those unique hiccups of his where he felt the thought and emotion warranted them, being entirely of the moment as a singer. Emotional constancy via vocal flexibility. His voice thought fast, you might say, like Charlie Parker’s lungs thought fast. This was one smart fucking guy.
It's 11 AM. Pause.
Night. Again I walked the three miles and back to Charlestown in hopes of resuming my Monument climbs, and again the Monument was closed. On account of weather. Come on, park rangers. Get it together. This weather is no different than December weather. The other day it was in the forties, no rain, no snow. When the calendar hits January 1, they start slacking over there. Obviously that wasn't germane this year with the government shutdown, but I've noticed it in years passed, and once they returned to work this year, they've halted climbing. This means I have to push back my cardiologist appointment, because I am not facing the good Dr. Awtry if I'm not doing ten straight climbs the week of my visit. I need to go into that meeting as a Zulu king. Zulu warrior will not cut it. And yes, I realize that it's mad that someone without a primary care physician as of yet has a heart guy. I like having a heart guy. A friend says, "Why do you go to a cardiologist at all? Your heart is in perfect shape, you do your crazy workouts, you don't drink, you don't even eat a single potato chip." All true. And, when I look back, giving up potato chips almost a year ago was probably the bigger achievement over giving up the drinking nearly 1000 days ago. I have a lot of stress. Obviously. Having a heart guy makes me feel better. Dr. Awtry is even in Glue God: Essays (and Tips) For Repairing a Broken Self.
I am watching the Penguins v. the Lightning. Malkin just fought Stamkos. That was interesting, though they both fell down early. Tonight I went to two more screenings at the Brattle. Island of Lost Souls and Cat People. Well! These are two humdingers, aren't they! The former is on the shortlist for best horror pictures of the 1930s. I introduced my friend Derek to it our junior year of college. He works at NBC now. When I met Derek, he listened to a lot of Christopher Cross and James Taylor. But pretty soon, all Derek would listen to would be Sam Cooke, Arthur Alexander, Otis Redding. I got him hooked. You'd hear him belting out "Where Have You Been All My Life" as he studied. Junior year, we sat on the bed in our roommate Garland's room, because he had the better TV, and watched Island of Lost Souls. Laughton and Lugosi are terrific in it. Double-barreled L action! This was on 35mm. Cat People was a DCP screening. Ah, that Lewton walk. There are two of them in this movie, wit one of them being in a pool. One of the morals of both films is don't hump animals. But you probably knew not to do that.
Before one of the the screenings, Billie Holiday was playing on the sound system. This was apt, as I was making notes in my seat for what will be called A Kiss Always Tasted: Embracing (and Restoring) Billie Holiday in a World Gone Wrong. It will be a very conversational, wise book about Billie Holiday, a musical travelogue, a societal study, a philosophical offering, for experts and newcomers, people interested in good music, needed ideas, new directions in this life and the life they've been leading. One of the songs was "Yankee Doodle Never Went to Town." What a band. Are you kidding me? Chu Berry on tenor, John Kirby on bass (he's so underappreciated), Roy Eldridge on trumpet, Cozy Cole on drums, Teddy Wilson on piano, Benny Morton on trombone. Oh. Is that all? Nuts.