I was thinking about something: one of the first baseball games I ever went to--it may have been the very first--was Carl Yastrzemski's farewell appearance at Fenway against the Cleveland Indians at the end of the 1983 season. I was very young. Seems, though, like I would have gone before that. In 1965, Yastrzemski was the lone Red Sox batter to get a hit off a fifty-eight-year-old (!) Satchel Paige in three innings of work. A guy I saw--and I'm not some old guy myself--faced a pitcher who was pitching when Babe Ruth was in his prime.
Howie Carr is a local conservative radio host who does not like the Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker. I don't either. Nor Boston's major. Politics are never a political thing for me, which sounds weird. I look at what people actually say, the ideas, how they convey the ideas, their level of intelligence, of understanding, empathy, perspective, vision. I look at motives. I find almost everyone lacking. I don't think Donald Trump is any worse than most of them, and better than a number of them. I'm not a Republican, I'm not a Democrat, and I see people loaded with hate who claim virtue who hate with the same fervor, who do the exact same things, the people they are always caterwauling about do. But back to Howie Carr. I see his various tweets retweeted, and he's always calling Charlie Baker, "Charlie Parker." A number of media people do this. It's meant to be derogatory. Now, Charlie Parker was a brilliant man, a genius. An actual genius. There are very few. So what is the insult, then? Clearly, to me, the insult, the pejorative, has to do with skin color. I don't know how people don't make more about this. In a world where so many people cry racism, when there is often not any racism, here is actual racism, no? What is the pejorative, otherwise? That the governor is like a jazz musician and a governor ought not to be? I don't believe that's the "dig" for a second.
Many people in publishing, not having any ability to write and nothing to do, do most of what becomes their writing on Facebook. It's usually about trying to be offended. For instance, I saw one woman the other day who hopped on and said she was deeply troubled--so you know how serious it is--by the term "Eskimo kisses," and whether it was racist or not, and how she needed input from, of course, the people who are exactly like her. This is what they do. You're sitting there, you're living your life, and you think, "I know, I should get on Facebook and try to make sure that everyone knows that the terms 'Eskimo kiss' is racist." These are the same people who congratulate themselves for writing forty words every six months, who congratulate themselves for how little they do, for being "brave" enough to not write, but to survive during this time. And it's like, please, you're sitting on your ass watching Netflix for sixteen hours. When I started dealing with the discrimination, when it got really bad, I was able to see, right away, all the kinds of discrimination streams, if you will. Some had to do with genius. Some had to do with my expertise in a given area. Some had to do with having many forms of expertise. Some had to do with my publication track record. Some had to do with the fact that I never give up. Some had to do with my lifestyle. The things I had overcome. Some had to do with me not going to certain schools. Some had to do with me being an athletic-looking white guy in Boston. Some had to do with being self-made. Some had to do with my humor and ease in social situations. But there may be no stream bigger than the one regarding productivity. That surprised me. I was taken aback by how much these people were bothered--even wrecked--by someone else being so productive. Of course, 290 of them then hopped into the comments section, and they all spent their day talking about how, yes, of course, the term Eskimo kiss was so racist, those poor Eskimos. And I'm seeing the names of people I have sent my work to. Of course someone like that is going to be horrified by everything about me. They already are. I don't waste my time doing crap like this, which is how they orientate their entire lives, their entire peer and professional groups--their cliques. I spend my time creating works for all time, growing, fighting, learning, doing everything I can to keep doing those things and get better at them. If they don't know me, and they see the cover letter--and believe me I scale it back so much--they are horrified, then they go to the site and are horrified all the more. This is who you're up against. Those cliques.
This is fun. I've seen lately that people, attempting to sound smart, will try to write the phrase, "lo and behold," and instead write, "low and behold." They use this phrase in a sentence meant to cap their argument. Low and freaking behold. As they tell others how smart they are. Good God this world. We're not, strictly speaking, an illiterate society, but this is a post-literate society. The "low and behold" thing didn't happen a few years ago, neither did the "should of" thing. You can actually watch it get worse each year. You'll hear some people say that the world is better than ever because we are more tolerant, which is among the least veracious statements I've ever encountered. We've never been less tolerant, more angry, more filled with hate, a hate often stemming from our insecurity; as individuality is lost, so, too, is identity, and as identity is lost, insecurity surges, and so does anger and projection.
People are not tolerant. That's like saying the people who went along with the new world order in 1984 were tolerant. No. They were scared out of their minds. They didn't want more problems. It's the same now. You don't want to get called out. You won't say the truth for fear of what might happen to you. How you will be attacked. So we all pretend that something that is clearly not the truth is the truth. We are cowed. We are also less tolerant because we have so many labels and definitions, and labels within labels, definitions within definitions shoved at us. We don't let anything be. We don't let people be. Life induces wonder when everything in life is not necessarily rammed into a category, a box; make like entirely about an inventory of boxes, and it becomes harder and harder to locate wonder, we perceive wonder less well. Everything requires a term, and if you don't know the term, if you think just in terms of people, individuals, you are regressive, you are hostile. We are a society in prevent defense mode. Which only works if you're up 49-14 with five minutes to play, not if it's a tight contest, as the game of life so often is.
Sometimes people send me overtly enthusiastic notes--in other words, the tone is forced-- through various means. They might be people I've been nice to with a kind word or whatever, who've never had a kind or positive word for me. We don't have a rapport, a back and forth, a developing relationship even as pen-pals, we're not chummy. They've said nothing about my work, what I do, my books, something I've published, an interview I've given. And I'll be sitting there, and some note will come in, invariably with multiple exclamation points affixed. And I'll always think--and sure enough, I'm proven correct--"well, here we go." It's so incongruous, so out of the blue. And what this person will want is something from me--they want me to help them. To get them in a magazine, to give them tips about agents, some actually ask me to hook them up. They use that phrase.
I mean, of all the people in the universe to reach out to about this, it's like, really? Look: I've had nothing given to me. I've had no help. I don't even get the things everyone knows I deserve, that people with a fraction of my ability and a sliver of my achievements are automatically handed. The more I achieved, the more they sought to lock me out, and then I achieved more. Against every last odd, and so much resistance. Blackballing, hate, chains and chains of bedfellows with locked arms saying, "You, Fleming, will not enter here." I have not only had no help, I've had the bulk of an entire system against me. Very rarely has anyone raised a finger to get my work out there. But people just want things handed to them, given, provided.
That someone would read these pages--because you can tell when they've read the blog--and say nothing about my work, and then just ask me for advice or the pulling of a string or an introduction, is amazingly out of touch. Entitled. There will be broken grammar in these notes, the person will often have money, and they tend to quote something from the blog, but they misquote it and have me saying something I never said. The language of this journal is precise. If something is qualified, it is qualified for a reason--there are typos and what not, from time to time, which will be removed when all of this comes out in book form, but the precision of expression is a constant and it is there for a reason, for many reasons. They did not even come prepared.
I know so much about this person as a person and as a writer from these notes. Not everything, not most, there's more to a person than that. But I know all I need to know. Here's what I will do--I'd help someone with their writing, if they were serious about it. And if they were any good. Or wanted to be. And they were working hard towards something. I mean really working, not pretend publishing working, not a dalliance, not dilettante working. I would look at something and tell you exactly what it was. (I would also help someone who was going through something, if they wanted my help. But that's different than stuff about someone's writing career.) And it would be the most honest and penetratingly insightful thing anyone ever said to you about your work. But to write me for these other reasons? It's beyond disrespectful. I can tell that that is how those people go through life, how they get everything they've ever gotten and why.
Now, a person might say, "hmmm, they could have so much respect for you and your mind, be so blown away, that they're asking you because they think you're the man." Fine. But that person never said word one about my work, anything I'd ever said or written. Presumably never bought a book, never voiced support on social media, never did anything. I get that I'm intimidating, so people do the prevent defense thing, but when you do the prevent defense thing with me, that thing that you sought to avoid is the thing that ends up happening, that is guaranteed to happen, because I'm just done with you after that. I don't interact with people who play not to lose.
And yes, I should add that someone who sends me something like this can be a very lovely person, kind and sweet and all of that, but you have to understand, it's not a good way to approach me, and I think it's perfectly understandable that I feel that way. I am a demon to the people in this industry because I produce constantly and at the level I do. That's what makes me a horrible guy. But doing things like this? That's fine. That's cool. I can't even imagine writing a stranger and being like, hey, hook me up. Some people try to trick me, too, like I don't know what they are up to. Like this one odious creature who tries to be Junior Colin and just kisses ass and tries to ingratiate himself but knows absolutely nothing about the subjects on which he writes. (But neither do his editors, so in it goes, in this flat, lifeless, cliched critic voice with some stuff popped in from the basic entry-level books on the subjects and Wikipedia.) But I am not in the mood to go into anything with that dude right now and his soulless autopen writing. I am getting pounded today and losing money on top of everything else.
By the way: It'd be hard to prove, but I think there's a chance Satchel Paige might have been the best pitcher ever. That he was as good as he was in MLB when he got there so late--when anyone else would be retired--makes you wonder what he was like at twenty-seven. Isn't this a beautiful card? 1953 Topps.