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Journeys in journeys

Tuesday 6/15/21

Watched I Know Where I'm Going! and 49th Parallel again. Weather is key in the films of Powell and Pressburger. It's not weather for weather's sake, though I should add that it is very atmospheric weather and the kind I like. Lashing rain. Darkness before it ought to be dark. Wind that turns waves into spray that hits you ten feet up the beach. Is that not the stuff? I'd take it over sunshine all the time, and if I'm being honest, a Powell and Pressburger film can make me think of Rockport. Weather is also key in the plots. It is an agent of interruption in what one thinks should be a continuous journey. Weather is life in Powell and Pressburger. Life is change. Life is reaction to the "interruption." Lives are changed in I Know Where I'm Going! when weather intercedes and the journey appears to be halted. But a halted journey is another's start. Rare is the individual who knows this. Rarer still is the person who does something about it and gives one's self over to the second journey by understanding it is every bit the journey as the first. There may be something invaluable to discover along its road. What I'm really talking about is a romantic. A romantic is open to possibility that comes with change. They even think there is possibly magic to be had. If they adapt on the fly, if they open themselves up. If they "go there," if you will. I am a romantic this way. People really are not, though. I'd say less than ever. I know it's less than ever. I can feel it, I see it, I experience it. This is freedom. It's also vulnerability and risk. It's rolling the dice on the soul's prospects for a bit. She may come up winners, she may come up losers, but wouldn't it be glorious if it were the former? What a story you'd have to tell. What a connection you could have made. There is no comfort zone. But there could be a zone of connection. And that connection, in turn, could travel along the road of all of the other journey's going forward. And the journeys within the journeys. I think that is how special people live life. There are just so few of them.

I would like to go to Canterbury someday with someone. Life will have to be very different for me then than it is now, and she will have to be an amazing person. But that is a place I'd like to go. Also, Scotland. Remote, raw places with the sea. The history that is my kind of history.

I wrote a story last night called "Visit to the Babe" which is excellent. It just came together. The story is told by a fourteen-year-old girl, but she's not fourteen when she tells it, though the story starts in the present tense. It's the idea of a living memory. A part of one's life--which is bigger than a moment in one's life--that never really goes away, nor recedes. What happens with tense throughout is quite sophisticated. You're tweaking that initial tense ever-so-slightly so that the reader knows this is further along in life--it may be in 2021--but we remain in a sort of real time that is out of time. Does that make sense? The first several sentences feature no commas. They're kind of stairway sentences. Flagstones on a path. Each is complete, rather than a composite, which is how a multi-part sentence can be. Multi-clause sentence. Take away the commas, and there's a real sense of forward momentum, which I want for this story, in order to pull off that idea of it being both present tense and past tense at once, with the latter making itself aware not necessarily in the reader's conscious mind but down a level, but aware all the same--they know it without trying to know it. It "is." Do you follow me?

Each story that I compose will have its own mechanics. Its own set of internal ordering and solutions. I've written on here in the post about what makes writing innovative about the vertical/staircasing aspect of "Fitty." The story operates on various forms of diagonal planes. Literal. And then emotional and spiritual. I had this editor at Harper's once and she was really dumb. She's at the New York Times Book Review now, where I am also banned and coverage of my work is banned. And all she'd say to you was, "What will the shape of the piece be?" I think someone told her in graduate school that this is how intelligent people speak. There was no way to answer her, because it was just a pretentious person play-acting at being a smart person. What were you supposed to say? "Um, it will be trapezoidal." But the truth is, I do write to shapes. "Fitty" is ladder shapes. But that's a different level of sophistication than you could have responded to this person with.

I talked about the romantic above. The adjustment on the journey within the journey. The discovery. Let me tell you: you must have so much faith and confidence to write well. Because you have to be in that moment, and entirely open to the idea that you don't know the mechanics yet. You need to find them. Or allow them to find you. Or a combo. They are always different if you are any good. It's a surprise to me every time. I say, "Oh, that's what it will be with this one." Then you end up with 400 stories that are completely different, but every last one far more inventive than anything anyone else will do. They share that in common. But never plots, never tones, never voices.

The girl in the story has three older brothers. Her father had her later in life. He's sixty-two. She taught the brothers how to hold a baseball properly. She wanted to be a ballplayer. More than that, she wanted to think of herself as someone born to play ball, but she adds that someone born to play ball is also someone born to watch ball. Her father is not long for the world. The kids know because he told them. He told them together, and he told them separately, because as the girl says, he was the kind of man who understood that a person hears what they've been told differently, depending upon who they're with. Or not with. We don't know what ails the father. We don't need to know. We can make a surmise, perhaps, given the rest of the story. He wants to remain present in the lives of his children. We learn that he was kind of the company for his work, and the girl talks about her dad's old boss referring to him as such at cookout, enough so that she wasn't certain the man knew her dad's name. They live in the Bronx. There is going to be this Babe Ruth Day at Yankee Stadium. Ruth is sick, people are aware that it's almost certainly their last chance to honor the Babe. The dad's ex-boss gives him four tickets, so he can't take all of his kids. They draw lots. And the girl telling the story gets the short match. There is this crucial moment that occurs after which is a condensed form, in my view, of the full spectrum of human life. If you let the story come to you that way, and hit you that way. The story is less than 900 words long, and there are several parts like this.

The father takes the three boys to the game, and later her brothers describe what they say to the girl. They tell her about Ruth standing alone on the third baseline, needing a bat to prop himself up. He can't stand on his own otherwise. She imagines what was going through his head then, and what maybe didn't go through his head before, on other days in that spot, or near about, or may have. That sequence is some of the finest prose I've ever written. Ruth dies not long after, and his body laid out in state in the Yankee Stadium rotunda. The girl's brothers go to school, but her dad holds her back. He says that they'll walk to Yankee Stadium to see the Babe. It's a ten minute walk for her, but not for him at this point. But he's adamant. They'll walk. There's a huge line at the Stadium, and they wait in it. And when they get up to the casket, he does something that he doesn't need to do in one way, but that he does need to do in another way. Something he does for her. And that sequence also has some of the finest prose I have ever written. It's stunning. It will make your mouth hang open. And there's still another surprise.

It's a colossal work of art. It just came to me, man. I got up, and did it all in twenty minutes.

Ran three miles. Wrote an op-ed on what it means for Negro League statistics to become a part of the official MLB record. Took that 1000 word Freddie Redd essay and made it a 2000 word Freddie Redd essay--on his 1961 album, Shades of Redd--but still not done. Worked some more on the Powell and Pressburger/A Canterbury Tale essay.

Okay--just finished the Powell/Pressburger essay. It's 2100 words long. I need to fix it. I don't know how it always seems like I'm writing more than I did at any other point previously when it already must have been certain or close to it that I could not write more than I already was.

Still no money coming in.

Saw a video of Cam Newton and Mac Jones throwing at practice. Newton is just awful. Awful awful awful. Awful mechanics. No feel. It's like T-Rex shot-putting a ball down the field. This guy cannot seriously be the quarterback again. Belichick will get fired over this weird thing he has for Newton. Also: the tight ends they signed are not that good. I don't think the players they signed were that good. I think people conflated signings with this idea of reloading. But I also won't be surprised if Newton gets cut and doesn't make this team.

Walked three miles. Gave an interview on the radio about the Grateful Dead's "Box of Rain," A Canterbury Tale, the career of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, and the Beatles' first BBC session from spring 1962. The Negro League/Josh Gibson op-ed ran in the New York Daily News.

For one scoring at home, that's a short story, a film essay, a music essay, a sports op-ed, and radio interview about half a dozen things in less than twenty-four hours. And these blog posts.

Why even have the Genius Grant and the Guggenheim if you're giving them to whom you're giving them? So talentless, lazy fat cats can get fatter? What is the point? Typical day here. Day after day after day.


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