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Tuesday 4/21/20

On Friday I walked ten miles and did a lot of work in my head. At night I had taken my Melatonin and was trying to go to sleep so I could be up well before dawn to start work when I decided to write an essay on Lee Konitiz who had died a couple days before. I don't know if I will be able to sell it. The essay is on his 1954 recordings from a club in Harvard Square. A 1000 page book on my jazz writings would hit the spot and rise to the top of jazz literature if I was in a different situation and there was a point in assembling such a product right now but there is not. Sunday marked 1414 days without a drink or 202 weeks.

This morning on Instagram (I'm pretty sure my Instagram page sucks, so far as Instagram pages go, and I also do Twitter "wrong," by the standards of Twitter; most people use it to be a wiseass, sarcastic dick while fucking up grammar with a baseball bat to the head, whereas my posts, sadly, share cool art to check out, have legit insight into sports, spell everything correctly, turn you on to neat films, music, paintings, writings, podcasts, radio programs and are concerned with wit, clarity, truth. I actually wonder, do I do this wrong and I shouldn't bother to put anything up, or is that no one else has anything, really, to give or say, so they take the approach they do?) an ethereally beautiful Russian pianist who was, I'd say, somewhere in her mid-twenties, liked several animal shots I had taken on my thirteen mile walk on Sunday. (Two part walk--ten miles covered by going to Coolidge Corner and back, then three more miles walking to Bunker Hill, where I sat and did some work for a book on The Office--British version--I need to finish a proposal for, read the February issue of The New Criterion, and also a YA novel in The Three Investigators series but not the regular series--the series when they are in high school and bookish Bob Crenshaw is boning everything in sight, which is kind of hilarious.)

Doubtless one of those random things in life. But I am a romantic. I am probably, despite everything that has happened, the staunchest romantic there is. I have what thus far seems to be--and I don't know why I have it and I certainly don't know why I retain in it--a limitless faith in the wonder of romance. She didn't follow me. Probably just likes animals. I went to her page and there was a video of her playing Chopin and I listened to it. And that was it, just one of those things. But someday, if I ever do meet the kind, dynamic, talented, beautiful, strong person I seek, I think it will be through here, or a book or story she read, that compelled her to reach out, or something unlike the way other people meet. Something that will later be seen as befitting to us, when looking back.

(I was tempted to "follow" her and send a note asking who she was, but then again, she didn't have much to say when I flipped through her comments--mostly platitudes--and if one wants to get in touch me, it's not hard to get in touch with me, and I figure someone worth it for me is someone who would act resolutely and with conviction and purpose. And, of course, I'm very lonely, and I see one little thing and I get to wishing, I guess you'd call it. You can't let that compromise your clarity and focus. Or your patience, I guess. That what you need to come will eventually come, and be ready when it does. I take that approach with my career, and with people.)

I watched the first two parts of the Last Dance docu-series. I intend to write about it if I can get a venue or two. There are two pieces I could do--an essay and an op-ed. This piece on Samuel Pepys and COVID-19 ran in Quillette. Someone I know shared it on their Facebook page and excerpted some lines that I will use at least in part when I post this in the News tab. When I revisit a work I've written, or see a quote, the experience is a complicated one. In one regard, I see the work as through it was written by someone else. I'm a ruthless reader of what I write. Relentless reader. Because I have no ego. At all. What I care about is the work being better than any work ever written by anyone else. I know it will always reach that point if I am performing as I can perform, and sometimes that involves fixing.

But there can also be this feeling of reading something I've never seen, even as I know why I made every choice I did in what I wrote. You could show me something I wrote in 2000, and even if it wasn't very good and I have not thought about it since, I could tell you why I made every choice I did--every last one. When I am back in the piece reading it. But one must also consider that with something like the Pepys piece, even though I wrote that whenever I did--late March or early April--I have written like twenty pieces since. When my words are excerpted away from the piece, and I see them on a place like Facebook, I think, "who the fuck wrote that?" as if someone else wrote it. Were I another writer, I'd be hugely intimidated. And that's off of that one piece, not a concomitant thought of "wait, that's the person who wrote Meatheads, who wrote the sports piece, who wrote the op-ed, who wrote 'Find the Edges'? How the fuck is that possible?" Of course, I get more upset when I have that feeling, because the work is so different than all other work right now, the level is completely and obviously different.

The other day I had this story from a few months, and I revisited it, and I didn't care for it at all. I cut it down to a hair of what it had been, I completely remade it, you would never think that the two stories--the old one is completely gone now, save how it lives on in emails to some people to whom it was once sent--ever had any overlap. It's my shortest story to date, word count-wise, at like 260 words. Haunting, unique, perfect. It's called "Perma-Garden." I always know that the story is in there. If I perform and trust my talent--which I find the easiest thing to trust--I will always get it. A literary magazine called Ecotone that does the normal thing and hooks up the system people, has a theme issue upcoming centered on gardens. Poems, essays, stories with gardens in them.

Now, I know this is an approach to a garden story that no one else could ever take. I sent it to them. But I sent them "Fitty"--and it does me zero good to have "Fitty" run there, as it's just too special and important, sociologically, to be wasted on a journal no one sees--and whatever else over the years. (None of these stories are better than the other stories I create, but some have more they can do in this world right now--"Fitty" is that way, "Six Feet Away" is that way, also "You Called Me," "Take a Leg"; stories that could become news unto themselves. These people, though, are far too simple-minded and conservative to even begin to think that fashion. All they think is, "oh, this is an MFA story, this is a flavor-of-the-month author, they went to Yale, they have this agent who sold me this other story, they are someone I am supposed to shill for, this story risks absolutely nothing and is safe and doesn't make me feel anything and I hate to feel anything and emotion and life terrifies me, I'll put it into the section, this is how we roll." They call it different things, of course, to themselves and others in the steady stream of lies that is their life. (They might say "polish" and "craft.") But the reality is the same.

There is no vision. Bulls are not taken by the horns, eyes locked, with someone saying, "holy shit, we can do something here, this can be different, this can be big, let's get creative, let's go for it." These people are incapable of thinking that way. You have a better chance of flapping your arms and flying in the air later today. Let me put it this way. If there was a god that came down from above and the god could write in a way no one else could because of his, like, I don't know, god juice, and that work was like nothing else there was, with more meaning, more value, because, hey, he had that god juice, which other people didn't, and greater consequence for the world at large and at the level of the individual, and it was pretty damn obvious this was not how other humans wrote, the people in publishing would see nothing to be done, and instead would say, "Yeah, let's get this other person here her genius grant and stick her in the fiction section of The New Yorker again, why, she write a lots like a Laura van den Berg-type." They need to be able to think something like that to do anything. They'd hate the person with the juice. The most that person might get is a boilerplate email from a twenty-four-year-old Harvard trust funder named Huntington Bogwater IV who is being groomed to be the managing editor next year, a senior editor the year after that, maybe run the whole thing in a few years. All of it is stocked with the Bogwaters.

Ecotone won't so much as write back. It's Fleming. And Fleming is not to be dealt with. Further, they want me, someone who has published in every major venue there is, thousands of times, to pay them $3 to have my story read--each story--and then summarily form rejected by an underling. Clip joints in addition to houses of bigotry. I am helping you out when you are a literary journal and I offer you a masterpiece for the ages for which you are going to compensate me very little money, if any money at all, and with my track record, too, which is matchless. No one can touch my publication record. What's up on the site is a mere fraction of what has ran, and so many venues I have been in are not even represented on this site. I think about the ones not on here. Village Voice, Spin, The New Yorker, MOJO, Art in America, The Believer, just whatever else has been left out. Hell, I stopped updating the short fiction list. I'm always just creating art, writing people who hate me, and trying to figure out a way out of this situation. I'd need a full-time archivist.

Sure, other people with no skill are handed awards and money, you can have that track record which I do not right now. I just saw how the Guggenheim fellowships played out. I saw how one writer of slop after another worked the Guggenheim people with their publicists, just as these same people already had so-called genius grants for more than half a million dollars, and it was all about what awards they had already been given. Genius grant. Can you look more obviously like a genius, can you be more obviously a genius, than if you do what I do ever, let alone on a weekly basis? What's more obvious? What I am I, then? A hard worker? That's the thing that makes me the expert on everything who writes better than anyone who cranks a dozen works of art each week, publishes constantly, sounds like I do on the radio, does this journal? Come on. I am the complete repudiation of this entire system, at every level. All you have to know is me, what I do, and know that that person receives nothing and is held back at every turn to know that this is the fakest thing there has ever been in human history. Nothing in the annals of our society has less to do with merit than what the publishing industry has become here in 2020.

Yesterday I wrote a short story called "Leavable." Emotionally devastating, done in 900 words. When you write the eighty odd stories I have now written going back to July of last year, since the composition of "Fitty," it's going to go one of two ways, I'd say. You're either going to be a total Lydia Davis-type fraud who writes a sentence and calls it a story--no emperor ever had less clothes than Lydia Davis, and yet no one says the truth--or you're going to be something the world has never seen, and those stories are going to be works of so many forms, voices, tones, lengths. Some are long, some are short, many are narrated by or are about women--two of which, "Sleepies" and "Skip Shack" I revisited and fixed last week, the latter being one of my all-time favorites--but one thing I've been interested in is stories that are short, word count-wise, that are infinite, life-wise. Pure narrative. The most elemental pure narrative.

You have to be able to make like one word count for a thousand. I don't think anyone else has been able to do it like this. I did it with "Jute," and now I do it a lot. It feels like I'm searching, but I'm also reaching, arriving. "Leavable" is that way. What people--as in sane, non-bigoted people--who read the stories in that camp remark is that they can't get over how much is in there, despite the brevity. Writers need to ramp up to tone, to voice, to a plot. To a feeling of immersion for the reader. It's not instant. But I can make it instant. I can make it all there from the first three words. I can make you feel like you're fifty pages deep in a journey you care a lot about in three words. Chekhov doesn't really do this in his shortest works. He's doing something else. (Though I will say that Chekhov and I figured out something that I don't think any other writers have, and I'm not going to share it here or maybe anywhere ever.) And I also don't want to do vignettes. I want full stories, with full plots. And I can do that now in very few words. Couldn't have done it two years ago, I'll say that.

I didn't send the story to my sister, who is usually one of the people on the email chains, because I thought it would upset her too much. The story is not about my life, but I think the subject matter would be hard for her. I think Vollmer would connect pretty hard with it. I usually think generally speaking that any unbiased reader will, but sometimes I think of someone who might a little extra, based on something I know about them. Like Kimball would perhaps connect an extra little bit with "Pre-Prime." It's a kind of story about toxic masculinity. Perceived invincibility. What really motivates those motivating factors. And then it becomes this kind of urban ghost and horror story.

A guy is out with his buddies drinking in a bar. They're loutish. They're like mid-twenties. He's over-served, and they kick him out, the staff. It's winter, he doesn't have his jacket, and he's hot at first. Starts walking to cool down, will call an Uber in a few minutes. There's highway construction, this overpass, kind of like the old central artery in Boston. Like you have in a lot of cities. And he walks under it, figures he'll call a cab when he comes out the other side, but things start happening, making it harder for him to pop out the other side. And you don't know if it's because he's that drunk or something else is at play. The story cuts temporally, but in a short window. It stays on this guy, in a sense, it has the unity of time, place, action. (You can cut in a larger window, and stay on someone, too; you can cut across decades, and you can still keep everything in one place, if you really know what you're doing--you can maintain that unity of time, place, action.) It's like you have the root of a chord, right? And I say to you, okay, dudes in the band, you can play your solo when the time comes, but you need to solo off that root of the chord.

A story like "Fitty" might go a lot of places, but the root of the chord is consistent and constant. You stay on that relationship--the connection--between Carlene and Fitty. So, with the really short works, word count-wise, what you're doing is playing several pieces of music at once, but they all share the same root of the chord, and they all fuse together as one piece of music, they're superimposed and integrated, it's not like, okay, these speakers over here are playing this tune, those speakers that tune, down the street a big band is playing this chart, etc. That's part of the reason why a 900 word story like "Leavable" is never going to feel short. You're going to read it and it's like you read a novel, but you were reading only for minutes. When someone else does a really short work, it's always a sketch, a scene, some description that is supposed to be deep and symbolic, at best a vignette. (Or whatever you want to call that Paul Lisicky crap in Conjunctions from a recent post.) It's never a full story. You have to be able to do too much at once. I think you need a real background, too, in music, to do it. Also, a background in architecture, painting, and dance. You have to know people as well in a way that people just don't. Because you have to deliver that line that says everything about a given human in one way or other. How they think. How they were raised. Who they once were. Who they are now. You need to do it in four words. And I don't think anyone else can do that. It took me a long time to get to it. Not that the work before I could do it was not as good. Rather, I was not ready to do work of this form. So I did other stuff.

I was walking on Sunday, and I did less work in my head than on Friday, but a lot of work, still. (Also, over the weekend I did much head work on stories, like one called "The Harrowing of Culver Street.") I was thinking about these short word count stories, how you could make a book just of them. And also the Tardis. From Doctor Who. It's bigger on the inside than the outside. These particular stories are like that, in a way. Stories longer on the inside than out. And that's how you could group that book. Right now, I have about 130 short stories just sitting here with me, with nowhere to go because of all of the reasons detailed in these pages. I have a story that had been accepted by The Atlantic and Harper's that each venue returned to me that is just sitting here. What does that say to you? That says so much about every level of this industry. I couldn't give that away to the Alaska Freaking Quarterly Review. It's not better than anything else I have, it's not like I had this one amazing story in me that was accepted by the two hardest places to get fiction into.

There is a guy I know named Don. And Don is my age. He wrote a story once that won a contest at Playboy. Don would talk about this story as the best thing he would ever write. He wrote it without struggle, which was unusual for him. He had this idea, it all came together, and it was, to hear him tell it, his one magical story. Like someone writes a song and they'll never write a "hit" like that again. And I remember just thinking how typical that was. Not his candor. That's pretty rare. You'll encounter no candor, for the most part, anywhere in publishing. No one in this entire industry ever speaks the truth. They never write the truth, either. They don't write human truth in their work, and they are never honest about the real reasons they get what they got, never tell you the doubt that eats them alive from the inside because it comes from a place of knowledge that they are a total fraud with no ability. It's all about hiding that. The presentation, the show. Almost all of them have perpetual writer's block, can never think of anything to write, write very little, and here's something for you: Almost all of them are terrified of actually writing. They fear the very act of writing.

So I'd admired Don's candor. And I used to say, "Dude, you're like forty-whatever, why are you saying this is the best thing you'll ever write?" And I realized that that's just probably how it was for him. Maybe he did just have that one story. If he did--I didn't read it--he'd be luckier than most. Very few people have one single real, good story inside of them. In their life. It's just how it is. But me? I have thousands. And if I don't have millions, it's only because I have the lifespan of a mortal. But who knows how that even works? Maybe I go somewhere else when my time in this space is over--as a mortal; art is eternal--and write some more. But I don't have a greatest hit. You know what struck me the other day? "Find the Edges" was the story that Harper's ran. And in my own mind, I almost never think of it. Like it never comes up in my head as this bar, this standard to try and surmount. It was just another story on another day. Another morning. Another few hours. Someone without bias, in the position to make a decision, gave it a fair read. It was that simple. That is "all" I ever need. And if you read it--check it out, it was in the April 2018 issue--you'll be knocked over by how good it is. How powerful it is. I think "Fitty" and "Six Feet Away" are stories to change the world right now, stories that would have features written about them, right now, stories that become news in addition to the art and entertainment that they are. I wouldn't say that "Find the Edges" is that way, right now, but it's as good.

This is another one called "First Responder" which I put up on Twitter yesterday because it was Patriots' Day here in Massachusetts. Go ahead, read it. Won't bite. It's not like your homework. Have an experience. The bombs went off on a Monday in Boston back in 2013. I had that story delivered to The New Yorker on Wednesday. Two days later. Think about that. Here's something that will blow your mind, too--the FBI didn't even know they were looking for brothers when I wrote that story. That news came out on Thursday. I just happened to write this story about brothers. The New Yorker is a weekly. Think of what would have happened if that ran in The New Yorker the next week. Can you even imagine? It takes people years to write a story that sucks. And here you had a true work of art tied to something that just happened, which also transcended the news, and you would have blown everyone's mind that you had this so fast. And Deborah Treisman looked that story, that masterpiece, that opportunity, that chance to do something historic, square in the face, and said, nah. (They just did the same thing with "Six Feet Away," which also would be history.) It's the first story in Cheer Pack: Stories. Cheer Pack includes "Find the Edges." Also includes "The Last Field," the story that The Atlantic and Harper's took and returned to me--that sounds like fun, right? I guarantee you that no one has ever had anything like that, in terms of bad fortune happen to them with a single story. As for the VQR, place that ran "First Responder": I'm banned at the VQR now. Most of the staff is different. The editor hates me. The second in command--who was there before--has never liked me, and it was like she was biting through a bullet in the past when she had to send me contracts for my contributions. I am so not her kind of person. (I'm really nice to her, too. She has an elderly father. He served in WWII. She looks up to him a lot, you can tell, going by her old social media posts that I used to see. And I would ask after him in my letters, and I remember doing that recently, actually, when I sent her "Six Feet Away," saying I hoped that he--and her mother, who is younger than the father, but also elderly--were doing okay with everything happening right now. I just remembered this about her. We don't know each other well. But she is not going to respond. I'm not her kind of person. This is pretty typical. My letters, too, would break your heart; they're not barbaric, they're not from some cruel, sadistic man; they're from a good person.) You start a book with that story linked to above, you have these other great works from these places that even the system people can hardly ever get into--and you have a dude who did it entirely with integrity, without even an agent, which is utterly impossible for anyone else--and that person can't give that book away with any press in America.

What do you think about that? I'll tell you something. If you sucked at writing, and you had a story in one of the fanciest venues, and nothing else in the book was published, and it was all terrible, FSG is putting out your story collection, or Random House. And you publish nothing else anywhere. You're not doing this constant publication thing. You're not lighting it up, constantly. You do one shitty story that happened to get into a major venue and they are doing that book with you. The worst that might happen to it, is you fall to the lowly safety school of Graywolf (publisher of the most boring work there is, and, what do you know, publisher of our man Lisicky). But if you're Fleming? Ha. Nobody will touch it with a barge pole. Then you'll see him write more works of art, publish more things, diversify more, get stronger and stronger, so that you hate him more. And around he'll come with another book--because he never stops trying, creating, inventing, innovating--and now your hate has actually gone up, when your response--or lack of one--was going to be what it was all along.

Until this changes, until I get it to change, until something forces change and hands, that's what I'm dealing with. That's how it is, until it isn't. When it gets to be the latter, I will spread like the Great Flood and there will be nothing to halt my flow and momentum. But in the meanwhile, this.

I wrote my sister the other day to tell her I wasn't making some pointed choice of not dedicating a book to her as of yet. Most of the people I dedicated books to were people I never should have dedicated books to. When this changes, when these books come out again, I'll scrub most of those dedications. I would dedicate Cheer Pack to Kara. We are not close and we are never going to be, but I think some degree of duty and loyalty exists between us. If You [ ] is a Dzanc book, so I want to dedicate to Wickett, who has been there for me on a front or two. Glue God: Essays (and Tips) for Repairing a Broken Self, which is kind of like the essay version of Cheer Pack, I guess you could say--accessible, truly moving book that people would connect deeply with, and is going through the same thing--I'd dedicate to my late sister Kerrin, because it's a book about struggle and she was someone who unfortunately had to struggle with a lot.

Last week I also wrote a story called "You Don't Believe in Fate," as I think I mentioned, and another called "The Gristers," plus "Perma-Garden," and I also read and proofed, for the final time, all of Meatheads Say the Realest Things, which will go to the printer anon. It is completely different than "Fitty" or "Six Feet Away," but it certainly goes into that category of a work that can be news unto itself. It is a conversation starter and rager. I also wrote an 1800 word essay last week about dating, a sports op-ed (and have two new sports op-ed ideas), the Konitz piece I mentioned, and I am not sure if I covered this, but I will be writing about the Let It Be album and film for The Daily Beast, and Dylan's "Murder Most Foul" (and to an extent "I Contain Multitudes") for Quilette. And I need to finish the Sam Cooke and Scrooge books. And also proof, fix, rework If You Brackets, which is likely kind of a mess right now.

I rewatched Anthony Mann's Man of the West. He made the toughest Westerns. Not the best--that would be John Ford--but the toughest. I reached back out to the BFI, about doing a book in their Classics series, but as usual, they ignored me. I have proposed Out of the Past, Chimes at Midnight, Return to Glennascaul, and mentioned, again, A Hard Day's Night, which I was going to be doing, until the series was sold to Bloomsbury and I was reneged on. And essentially yelled at. By the same person who is one of the two people there now who will not respond to anything. Wouldn't you want a book from me about A Hard Day's Night the film? That seems like a good thing, no? Beatles expert, film expert, unique writer, big-time Beatles and film track record, great film, etc. Appears to be a total no-brainer, so, of course, I beg for a response on anything. But some random professor? Eh, sure, do a book. It can be on something they've never written on, never demonstrated any expertise about, but they just like some film, they know somebody, skids are greased, hey, here's a contract. Look at my Beatles track record. Look at my Orson Welles track record. Look how much I have written about Out of the Past--film and novel--and Mitchum, noir. (And my radio track record on those subjects, too.) Pretty staggering, right? But yeah, fuck that guy.

I also gave more thought over the weekend to this Billie Holiday book I must knock out at some point. The structuring, the tone. What I'm going to do is a conversational book about her. Not a chronological, track-by-track break down. I'm going to situate Holiday in the context of today, talk about why she mattered so much in her own time, why she matters now, how her image can be misappropriated in our age, why we should listen to her, and I'll make the argument--that is, have this chat--by talking about certain recordings she made. Not all, not in chronological order, but it will be both a primer to her art and music, a kind of introduction if you're just coming to her, and something for the Billie Holiday expert and diehard to really enjoy.

I saw The Brothers Rico (1957), a mob picture from Phil Karlson. I don't really like mob films or TV. I don't find the subject interesting. It's usually just racist idiots with simple minds doing thug things. Why someone would want to watch The Sopranos is beyond me. (It's not actually beyond me--I can account for reasons, but none have to do with the actual quality of the work.) A series about stupid people and sociopaths doing the same things over and over. There is no change, development, every character is two-dimensional, if that. I also have no interest in anything in which everyone is horrible. People can do horrible things--Crime and Punishment--but I need someone I can relate to to some degree. By relate to, I mean go along on their journey with them. Have a vested interest in seeing how that works out, what they learn, the decisions they have to make. I can take that journey with Raskolnikov or Macbeth, and obviously they are murderers. But Tony Soprano is just a simple-minded, violent, anger-laden load without any qualities that make me care at all. You can be a dick, but I need you to be a kind of interesting dick. And I need you to possess some humanity, to rise above the level of an animal. The Brothers Rico was good. Karlson knew what he was doing in his films. He's not talked about much. I saw The Magnificent Ambersons again. No film starts as gaily and becomes so tremendously sad. Also mentioned Zero for Conduct by by Jean Vigo to the BFI. Schoolboy rebels. Vigo is perhaps my second favorite filmmaker.

Speaking of rebels. I once met for lunch in Boston with an agent. I asked him about placing a short story--this is back when I had a normal number of them sitting around, like five--and he said to me that he knew the editor of theGettysburg Review, which struck me as absolutely hilarious in how random it was. Like, wow, dude. So impressive. He was gruff, he represented one of the worst writers I've ever read, who was a fiction editor for quite a while at AGNI--a writer whose work one reader accurately described as a knee to the balls, over and over and over again--and as he was chewing away violently, he said, "So I get it, you're a rebel. I get what you're all about." Just a total buffoon this guy. But better than most agents. I'm a rebel? Why? Because I believe in good work? Because I know how filthy and backwards and bigoted this system is? Because I dare to actually, gulp, write a lot and write on much? My bad, brother. This was a long time ago. At that point, I was still trying to play by their rules, hadn't fully grasped yet that the reasons they didn't like me didn't have anything to do with what I was doing wrong--they had everything to do with what I did right. It takes a while to accept something that crazy. I guess you have to live it out in thousands of examples first. And I remember thinking, I'm no rebel. I just want my work to get the chance it deserves. I'll work with anyone, pretty much, if it's about the work. I don't have to like you, I can hate you, but so long as we stick to the work and business, I can deal. When you make it about other things--when you are entirely about other things--that's when we have problems. Fucking Gettysburg Review. Mark Drew is that editor. Ignores every story I send. I even asked him if he knew this guy. He ignored that, too.

People are compiling lists of five films they view as perfect on Twitter. What one sees is the complete absence of anything that did not just happen along. That is, no one goes looking for anything, even people who watch a lot of movies. They watch what happens to come before their face. That can be something on TV, Netflix, a film that was big in their lifetime that they knew to go see. It's as if curiosity does not exist. As if no one says, "You know, I'm really into movies, I want to find some great ones, let's go looking." People used to do this with music. That is, if you liked a really good band, and you knew who the band you liked liked, you'd check out those other artists. That's how people started listening to Robert Johnson. Which is pretty cool. This has never happened nearly as much with film, outside of the New Wave folks in Paris in the late 1950s. It doesn't happen much with music any more because music is so rote and soulless now. It's all shine and marketing. I hear it in the CVS. It's not music you can sit down and listen to, think about. Not a lot of it helps you in your life. I haven't heard the full album yet, so maybe I'll feel differently after I do, but what I have heard off the Strokes' new album is pretty poor. It's like the same song, repeatedly. Same tempo, not a lot of variety. This is a band that made two all-timer albums, with Is This It and Room on Fire. The second one might be better, even if the first one was more of the statement. Anyway, five perfect films: The General (1926), The Music Box (1932), L'Atalante (1934), The Searchers (1956), Star Wars (1977). A perfect TV series: both series and the Christmas Special of the BBC version of The Office. Further, I'll put The Office against any work of film ever made. The American version is ridiculous--it's like a child's coloring book compared to the Delacroix-level of the British version. "Perfect" does not mean best. Most people confuse the two. The Beatles have exactly one perfect album. That is A Hard Day's Night. They have at least five albums better than A Hard Day's Night.

Some sports. Don't like the Patriots new uniforms. They look like Auburn. They had the best uniform with the red and the Pat Patriot logo, but they can't go back to that, given how closely associated with losing it was--though they had their years--and you need to stick close to what you've had over the past 1/5th of a century as the best dynasty in sports history. People get really into uniforms. I've never cared much. I like that the teams I root for have always had cool uniforms--classic uniforms--like the Red Sox and Bruins especially. Uniforms used to have more personality. Even when they were bad they could be interesting. Astros, Padres. As a sport, hockey uniforms tend to be the best. Flames, Blues, Blackhawks, Canadiens, Sabres, Flyers. Sharks are pretty good, too. I've never cared that much about costuming, though. Whalers had a great look. Cooperalls always strike me as amusing. I was reading that some dudes still wear them in beer leagues. That's awesome. They're still sold, or at least a knock-off version is.

Watching The Last Dance one is struck by how different the world was--it was less besot with mental illness before social media, and there was more perspective--not that long ago. I think the Patriots, in the circumstances and context of the 21st century NFL, have the greatest dynasty ever, as I have said--I don't think it's close--but in terms of best team ever, in terms of degree of difficulty regarding the competition in your league at a fixed point of time, I'd say it's the mid-1990s Bulls. They were the best defensive team I've ever seen in any sport. They didn't play insane defense all game long, but when they needed to win, when they needed to get the offense going, it was always the defense that started everything for them. Their full court press was lethal. You had three guys who at various times were the best defenders in the world--Pippen, Rodman, Jordan--but Ron Harper excelled at the press. It was very exciting. As for duos, I would say that Jordan-Pippen is third all-time. Or fourth. Somewhere in there. Number one is Ruth-Gehrig. Number two--and I think this is the surprising one--is Gretzky-Coffey. I'm tempted to put them first. Intriguingly, there's no one you really pair with Brady. People want to say Gronkowski. That's recency bias. But Brady had as much going on with other players--Moss, for instance.

Brookline has mandated the use of masks. I don't like masks in a time like this, for me personally. I believe that a lot of your health has to do with your attitude and your mind. I don't like to let my mind be weak. And I believe there is a correlation between deciding to be strong and being strong, even physically strong. Plus, I don't really care if I get sick. Not in the "I want to die" way, which is usually true enough, but I don't believe it would slow me much. I am sure I get sick, and I am sure there are times when someone else with what I had would be in bed. But this is why I stay fit, stay strong; I am built to endure. I have had to make myself that way, or I could not take on publishing. I could not create every day. Anyway, Kara sent me a mask. I also don't need to be picked up by the fuzz. That's not going to be good for my blood pressure. So, if I go to Brookline again on a long walk, I'll wear it when I'm out there, but nowhere else. Maybe I'll wear it. Like my dad used to say, pussy is more than a kind of hat. I'm kidding. He didn't used to say that. Though I find myself saying it. There are actually studies corroborating what I'm saying. The people who whine endlessly and spread the fear on social media are the people more apt to get sick. I was sick in 2016 with that pneumonia, and while it incapacitated me, I set a deadline for when I was going for when I was going to be active again, and though I was weak, I did hit my deadline and walked five miles that day. My strength came back quickly. But part of that was because I had made the decision. There is a very real connection between mind and body. Physically what I am by far the most worried about right now is this layoff from climbing the Monument. I was at my peak Monument level and when it finally opens again, it's going to be a challenge, at first, to climb it once. That's going to suck. If I am not doing respectable amounts of climbs--five every day, at a brisk pace--within, say, a week and a half, two weeks of it reopening, I am going to be disgusted with myself and ashamed.

I have been listening to and revisiting various episodes of the radio program Suspense. Like this one with Gregory Peck called "The Lonely Road." And this Vincent Price/Ida Lupino episode "Fugue in C Minor." And this one, which is the best, maybe the scariest radio program ever aired in the States. It's from early December 1946, called "The House in Cypress Canyon." See how under control that is? The horror is perfectly controlled. The structure is also perfect. The design of the piece. I've written a lot about radio. Was trying to remember last night where some of the pieces have ran. Had to look it up. I'd like to write on "The House in Cypress Canyon" at some point. It could be a Christmas thing. As it, I already know a lot of what I'll be writing for in terms of Halloween and Christmas stuff this year. I plan things so early while I'm living like this. It's so much to fit in, the books, and then just grinding away on piece after piece until I get the money I have coming to me. And I sit back and I watch these people just whine, these people who never write anything, who take seven years to write some short story and have money thrown at them, these losers. Completely divorced from reality; as removed from reality as they are from ability. Well, maybe not that far. That's pretty far. Still, the point holds. The blog, documenting all of this, is so much work. It's going to take a half hour to read this one entry. I am giving so much. They give next to nothing, it's bad and of no consequence, and they are handed whatever. Then they hand, and they are handed again. Repeat repeat repeat repeat.

Speaking of radio: here's tonight's Downtown segment. It's was on F.Scott Fitzgerald. Namely, This Side of Paradise, "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," and what I think is one of the best things he's ever written, which hardly anyone has ever read, a scrap from his notebooks called "Our April Letter." We also talked about the story from yesterday, "Leavable," mentioned above, so you can hear Kimball's reaction (obviously I shared it with him), Meatheads Say the Realest Things, and Gronkowski, who apparently is on his way to Tampa.


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