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In which a concerned reader asks if there is anything in the world I am an expert on

Wednesday 11/6/19

Reader note:

"I can see you are an expert in figuring out what the WSJ editorial page will publish. But anything else?"

Nothing at all. Clearly.

Personally, I'd be embarrassed to write that to someone, suggesting, passive aggressively, that there was something they did not do, or know, without taking, I don't know, three seconds, to see if that might not be the case.

I ought to laugh over this (and maybe this is the kind of thing I laugh hard over later, when I am not in this position), someone contacting me, of all the people, actually asking me--and there's an accusation in there, we all know this form of person and how they are trying to operate (they are the kind of people your parents, if they are good parents, tell you to stay the hell away from when you're a kid, because they are, as a friend of mine puts it, "bad news")--if I'm an expert on anything, but this is emblematic of a part of my problem. (Also, seething jealousy. Big old froth of jealousy.) The lazy assumptions people make (or pretend to make; this is indicative of another problem). Because if you see someone with an op-ed--and many--in the likes of The Wall Street Journal, you would assume, and you'd never look to see if you were correct, that that person is also not an expert on...where do you want to start?

I don't know if the world can process and compute what I am. It's among my biggest fears.

They did make me laugh, though, by concluding with, "I hope you reflect on this."

I'll get right on that, brother.

And thanks for proving my point.

Weirder, and more of a giveaway, as to the motives of such a person, is that one needs to come to this website to send me a note that may or may not reach me. (It is, admittedly, a bit of a roll of the dice. Sometimes it takes me a while.) You literally have to see this site--even if that's just the front page--to send me that note. Look at the front page. See many author websites that look at all like that?

What were the other notes like? Weird vibe this time--people were positive, but if you isolated a line, you'd think maybe they were being sarcastic, but then you'd see two or three other positive lines. One thing one has to remember is that being clear can be hard. It's not hard for me, but whatever others might be and do--being a doctor, an accountant, a plumber--would be. It's always interesting that no one will say, "You're the worst, you suck, you're an idiot." People who want me dead don't say it. They don't refute what I say. They can't. The people behind the blackballing don't say it. What are they going to say? I'm not smart enough? The work isn't good enough? "Garbage Story A is actually awesome for...these reasons." What reasons? Give the reasons. They can't, so they don't. You've no hay to make on any of these fronts. I think even when people wish to have a go, it's barely a go, it's a toe dipped in the water. I wouldn't want to throw with me, intellectually. The reality is, I don't go through this stuff very thoroughly, because, if one reads these pages, one knows what I'm battling every day, I am in a hell and a war, I am entirely alone, and I am always creating. This is hard enough right now. I try to stay as straight on the beam as I can. I try to give everything to 1. Getting out of this situation 2. Not killing myself 3. My work. 4. Reaching the world. Not necessarily in that order. Those four things take most of me. Not just my time, energy, will, strength. They take most of me.

What I feel bad about is when I don't respond to the people who write lovely notes--not because they are complimenting me, but because I can see that they are coming from a place of deep thoughtfulness, a deep heartedness, if you will, where something I've written has touched them in a core way, not in a manner where they think I should subsequently receive a token back-clap. These people are often sharing from their own lives with me, very personal things, and I appreciate that. I don't do token. And I think that is something that everyone who knows me, reads me, hears me, knows, even if they don't consciously articulate it to themselves. Btu they know. It's one reason why I could discover the cure for cancer and if I was on Facebook, there would be four likes, and one would be my friend Dan Wickett, and another my friend Kimball, and another my friend Aaron Cohen, and maybe a surprise one. People sense they can't "token" me. And people in general are intimidated by me. Again, the work, the words, the persona in their minds, which is also the person in reality. But the people I'm talking about above are my people, and I am theirs. I think there are millions and millions of them. And I think us connecting, having what is a kind of relationship--because it is a relationship--is something that can do a lot of good in this world. That doesn't mean that we're friends, or would even be friends if we met, because often we wouldn't be. This is bigger than that, goes beyond it. It's a different form of connection than "hey, buddy."

One man wrote me and said he wasn't going to follow me on Twitter, he didn't like it, he embarrassed himself there, by which I took to mean that it wasn't that he said dumb things, but that the performative nature of it didn't make him feel great about himself. (Though I could be wrong. That was simply my best guess. I admire and respect his candor, which means I admire and respect him.)

I get it. I feel the same way. Why do I do it, the Twitter that is? Well, I do it because I am trying everything I can, no matter how unpalatable to me, to connect people to what I do. As I have said before, I don't know what is going to provide the flashpoint. I try to have the faith that one must necessarily come, that I cannot be able to do all of this, have this historically unique ability, and not reach the world with it. A piece, a comment, a story, an interview, I don't know, flashpoint-wise. But until it happens--because it's obviously not going to be a progression of, "you publish this here, this leads to that there, this offer comes in here, you're reviewed here, you are given this award by so and so." Because it wasn't that for me, and it was never going to be. I will do everything and anything for this work, because this work is what the world needs. And I am going to do everything I can, while I draw breath, to get it to the world.

We move on.

Yesterday on Downtown I discussed the concepts of age and time and misconceptions regarding both, then hopped back on the phone to discuss Billie Holiday for someone's podcast. The recording was awesome, this guy was really nice, I liked him, but it was also depressing, because I'm sure he just thought, okay, this guy wrote a cool piece on Billie Holiday (I write a lot on Billie Holiday; you might even say I'm an...oh no. Not the E-word. Don't say it!), I'll talk to him if he's game, and then you get me, doing what I do. I'd come to the end of a series of remarks, and it felt like he wanted to applaud, that this was not at all what he thought he was in for, that this isn't just jazz guy, or some guy who talks like anyone else talks. And yes, I talk exactly as I write, and it comes out that way in real time, every time. It sounds like I'm reading. But I'm not reading. That's how I talk. That is how fast the connection works between mind and mouth, the phrase-making, the references, the command of language, the periodic sentences, that all occurs in real time.

People are not used to someone being like that. What I think, of course, as moments like these play out, is that I am in this situation, that I am this poor, that I am giving away something amazing and unique like that for free (though I want to be clear, this guy was great, he was affable and thoughtful and I liked him, was glad to do it). It's upsetting. You know there is no one else who can do it, and it's not a matter of supposition, you can verify it, you can listen to others, read others. The proof is the proof. So, yes, while I would not want to say it gets me down further, because that implies I am not as down as one might be, I will say it with that qualification.

What else?

I composed a 2000 word story yesterday, "Lino." Walked three miles, climbed the Monument once. Began another story this morning. The fifty plus people who hate me, whom I wrote last Friday, all ignored me, of course. I had the new links, I had the WSJ news, I had the fiction sale to Salmagundi; that means more hate, and even less of a chance of a response, which was already zero percent.

A tiny, tiny press I did a book with, who does books with non-professional writers, retired gym teachers and what not, told me, after I offered them a manuscript--which I am reduced to at present because of the blackballing--to come back in a year and they'd look at it. I mean...what ass backwards insanity is all of this at every level?

I had to do the next Wall Street Journal again this morning. Editor said, "too much Colin, not enough Oscar." Oscar being Oscar the Grouch. So, I cut a second take. Now we're good. I couldn't lose this money.

Last night Emma was at the hospital, on account of her grandfather. I am groping in the dark somewhat, of late, with her, but I think that situation has a decent amount to do with what is going on with her. I surmise that there's more to it, or could be. I sincerely hope that no one felt threatened or left out by our bond, and encouraged her, with some form of pressure, to forgo that bond, a kind of divide and conquer thing. Someone I know thinks this, but I am not prepared to. It certainly seems strange, and not like Emma herself, but it could also not be strange at all; I know she's depressed, I know she's at something of a loss herself, I think she is emotionally overwhelmed and the back-up generators are on, if you will. I wish I didn't worry about her, for the first reason that I don't want there to be any reason to, but it's also a bad feeling. It's not like my principle stressors--it's not like she's in grave danger--but I do wonder how well I'd handle that if I were a parent. When I am a parent? Should I become one. I texted her this yesterday:

C: Don't respond to this if you're at the hospital. But listen: I don't know exactly what is going on with you or what's going on with us, and I'm sad that our friendship has mostly been missing in action for more than two months now. I hope we get it back on track and become buddies again, because I miss our connection. You probably know this, but I am always here for you. 24/7. To talk, to listen, to give you a hug, to sit in silence, anything. Okay? Okay.

E: I love you

Like I said, fumbling. I just want her to know I'm here if she wants me, that it's not like we have to be laughing it up at the Starbucks in order for me to be there for her. I have learned in this life that even when you don't take someone up on an offer, that they made it to you can still help.

I left some snacks for her today on the rack outside my door to take to school. Some candy, granola bars, seaweed snacks. I heard her collecting them when I was at the desk, and I didn't open the door and say hi, because if she wants to be alone right now, I want to respect that, but I also don't want her to isolate, to feel like she has to be alone. It's tricky. Figured she could share the snacks with her friends or her girlfriend if she didn't want anything.

What else is going on? The Smart Set was going to run a piece at Halloween on notions of identity via Linus (Peanuts Linus) and Curse of the Cat People; they want some changes, I didn't see them in time, so now the piece will run next year, after I make the changes. There are other pieces on the table there--the Monument climbing piece, a Christmas piece on Holiday Affair and shitty Christmases, a personal essay about how nightmares helped me to write, and, lastly for now, a piece on Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, and our age. The Daily Beast hung me out to dry with this piece, and four others. They had me write them, they said no more outsiders, they didn't run them or pay me for them. More work to try and sell. One of the pieces was on the video game King's Quest, which I have not yet moved. I wrote a totally different piece on King's Quest, a personal essay, pertaining to my own writerly development, which The Smart Set will run. And a piece on the painting, The Raft of the Medusa. Anyway, the Bierce piece, at 2000 words, was seen as a fit at The Smart Set, if I changed it, interconnected some other things, lengthened it, so I just did a big overhaul, while adding 1200 words. Am I an Ambrose Bierce expert? Yes, of course. Where does it stop? It doesn't. Which should be awesome, not a further layer of hell.

I am jumping in and out of this entry today. It's after four now. I have been in this chair for ten hours. I took an hour or so and went through "Lino" from yesterday, fixing it, then sent it to the inner circle. Also, Cincinnati Review, where Michael Griffith has like seventy-seven things of mine.

The Wall Street Journal op-ed will run Monday. I feel like if they hired me to write these, had me write one or two or every week, we'd be on to something. I feel like I could run far with that.

And honestly, if you tried, if it was your goal of the year, I don't know if you could come up with many--any?--questions more absurd than the "are you an expert on anything, Fleming?" one. It's an impressive flouting of reality. Or the rudiments of having eyeballs. Or a single thought. A neuron which might fire at the simplest level.

After five now. Emma texted me that she ate all of the food. That's good. I am going to the store now to get some green apples and milk. I am so disgusting right now. I haven't shaved in a week. I reek. I look like hell. I will get some green apples for her, too. They are both of our favorite kind.

And yes, the apple is sliced.


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