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Iced coffee

Heat is back on. Expansion tank had to be replaced. (I say that like I knew what an expansion tank was. I did not. But now I do.) I should have been a plumber. This guy is really smart, and as he said to me, the work is always there, if you're good at it. Wrote a 1300 word piece on James Watson and DNA for The Daily Beast. Filed that along with yesterday's piece on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Time to get a coffee, walk, and climb. The plumber is nice and he expresses concern for me. Seeing as how I live and all. He had a girlfriend who wanted to get fiction in Playboy. I don't tell him that the Playboy fiction editor has blown me off for over a year and a half. He asks me if I've published anything lately. My best friend is named John Musok. Two of my three books are dedicated to him. He's the only one that's on there twice. We met in the late 1990s when we worked at hardware store in Cleveland Circle. John's a contractor now who lives in D.C.


I was really bad at the hardware gig. If I cut your keys, well, let's just say you weren't gaining access to what you hoped to get inside of. I'd stay up all night writing--you should have seen how much I wrote trying to get my talent under my control--and then at dawn I'd walk around the corner to the hardware store. John would be outside smoking--we both smoked then--waiting for them to open so we could go to work, and he'd pass me the cigarette from his mouth and ask me how the prose was going. I was talking to him today before I climbed and I said that I should have been a plumber. It's like being a detective, with problem-solving skills, and that's a lot like writing, so writing crossed with Sherlock Holmes. He said, "You didn't have any choice what you were going to be. It's not like you could have stood outside of the hardware store with me in 1998 and said, 'hey, Hardware John, let's start a plumbing business.' You're the best artist ever, and you need to keep going." As he had said that I was strangely imagining the exact same scenario, and kicking myself for not having had that conversation with him one of those mornings. You have to be really good at what you do to be a plumber, and you're always working--you can see the fatigue in this guy's face, but he can probably see it in mine, as well--but I don't think you have to be massively handy. John has to be handy. I couldn't be less handy. John will whip out a deck. "Boom, deck, bitches!"--that's what he says to his customers--it's his trademark line--when he's completed the job, no matter how awkward it is, this is what he says. That's not true, of course. But I'll pitch him on the idea later and see what he says. I can't even measure. He told me when I get my house back he'll take two weeks and come up and stay with me and help me get everything set up. I can't even hang something properly. But I think maybe I could have been a plumber. But he's right, I didn't have a choice. It's what I was, everything was, when I entered this world, with an outcome all but stapled to my soul that would be life's purpose to try and bring about.


***


Walked three miles, climbed the Monument three times, sent out a pitch pertaining to 1978's Superman. I started work on the Dickens piece in my head on the way back. I'm going to have to write an entire book in December, but first I need to write 20,000 words for other things. I have to get the most out of these next two weeks. So many places--like twenty--owe me money, and I need to take a full day and play bill collector. This situation with Salon is bad. I need that $3750. It goes back to last summer. I can breathe better with it. They're not even responding now.


Now to the Starbucks to read and make notes and create a master payment list. I'm somewhat in love with the manager there. I've never seen anyone who looks like her. She's rather punky, with the sides of her head shaved, and dreadlocks, but it's the bone structure of her face that is unique, and, I would say, accounts for some of her beauty. She's smart and funny, has an excellent memory, a sly smile, but 1. She has a boyfriend and 2. I am at the Starbucks often, to get out of this hell-pit of an apartment. It's like my base. I couldn't lose it. You're together, you break up, and then you're ordering that coffee all the time? Not that the break-up is a goal. Obviously. The boyfriend seems kind of bland. Or the person I thought was the boyfriend. I only saw him there once or twice. The Starbucks is eighty yards away, so it's always easy to just pad on down and grab a table and read, compose in my head, grind my forehead into my hands and sigh/try not to weep over a steamed apple juice. But I could also kind of see her being the open relationship type. I couldn't handle that. I couldn't be an open relationship guy. "Hello, how was your day? Do you have someone else's piping hot seed dripping out of you?" Hmmmm. I probably wouldn't put it that way. Though, to be fair, it sort of plays off the hot beverage/steam nozzle imagery that would be apt here. Contents of beverage may be hot, etc. Seed interspersal...no. That's definitely not for me. I think I'll get an iced coffee today.


***


Here is this week's Downtown podcast. I am not sure if I've been on the pod before. I think this was the worst I've done on the radio, but I guess they didn't feel that way. I realize that I'm talking such small gradations at this point that others aren't likely to view them--or see them at all--like I do. I'm talking about my own standards. I know the level I'm at when I do something. I know exactly the level the story is at, for instance. I read something by someone else--you pick any name you wish--and I know exactly how it stacks up. I know when I'm on, I know the mark I'm hitting, I know when I'm at my best, I know when something could last as long as people do (and perhaps beyond, depending upon what--who--comes next), I know when my energy--such a crucial part of art-making--is not matchable. I've really only done two radio segments that I thought sucked. But again, those are to my specs. One time I did an NPR segment when at the exact same time, literally tens of thousands of people were trying to destroy my life. That was the week my sister died, with my mother finding her body in the house. And I saw something about how much hate there is out in this world, groundless hate stemming from violent self-loathing, with no one caring if they got anything right, and believing whatever they wished to believe just so they could try to destroy someone. And as that had started happening, I had to to tape an NPR segment. Throw on the headphones, test my levels, and be funny. That probably required more concentration than anything I've ever done. Anyway, that wasn't one of the two.


***


Turns out I went with a hot chocolate. (I like the holiday cups this year.) So, piping in the end, as it were. (Not a double entendre.)