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Let's Fug

Monday 2/17/20

I have the Instagram. The Instagram. Actually, I had it two or three years ago, but then I didn't know my password and I did not care. But my password popped up recently so I hit the return button and now I have the Instragram again if one wishes to see photos of stuff over there. I have been updating it. Emma did not like when I texted her and said my Gram game was strong. And yes, of course I put it that way on purpose. Still. It's mildly strong. I go to lots of interesting places. Plus I enjoy watching her cringe each time I say Gram.

There is so much to try and bring up to date here but I am not going to belabor the effort. We're going to move fast and necessarily be piecemeal, but if I wait much longer, the events and undertakings of the past few days are going to slip from a spot in this record. So, to be rather hugger-mugger about it, here is what has been going on, in no particular order.

The front page of the website has been updated.

Yesterday marked 1351 days without a drink. I ran six miles. I walked two. I composed a new short story in the morning titled "My Nub Skin." I went over it a lot. I'm about to go over it again before I work out. I have been working on "Wellness, Check," this morning, another short story. The former is about the kind of skin that has grown over the nub where a leg had been. It's told in four short sections. "Wellness, Check," is about a young woman who stands outside during the winter of her eighth grade year, because there is an air conditioner that is always on in a ground floor level unit on her street. I'm going slow with it.

These are the other short stories I have composed in full in the last several days: "Spring-Heeled," "State Birds," "Tulum: A Vampire Story," "The Weather Within," "The Groove in Reggie's Head," "Mail Tape," "Basement Snow," "A Running Town," "And Ride," "Professor Pretzel," "Skip Shack."

Yesterday I went to the Brattle for the Looney Tunes film festival. These shorts are inspiriting. Much wit. What I noted was people got the jokes. It's not broad humor. It's accessible humor, but it's very clever. Duck Amuck (1953) is a brilliant short film. Smart, meta. Chuck Jones directed. I hustled out of the Brattle to Sanders Theatre, where I took in a performance by the Boston Chamber Music Society--Beethoven's Beethoven's String Trio in C Minor, Op. 9, No. 3, and Bartok's Violin Sonata No. 1, Sz. 75. I was especially interested in the Beethoven, as after writing the work he concluded--and I am competitive the same way, while most people who write right now run from competition--he had bested Mozart in the form. Having achieved this, he turned his attention to the string quartets, which number among the greatest works of art in human history. From my balcony seat at Sanders, I jogged up the street to the Harvard Film Archive, for a screening of Luis Bunuel's L'Age D'Or (1930), checking the score of the Bruins-Rangers game a few times. Funny guy, Bunuel. Of course I have seen the film, but when possible I try to see these works on the big screen.

On Thursday I ran up the whole of the Monument for only the third time. I was pressed for time, because I had a meeting out at BU. It looks like I will be doing a bit of teaching there, with a course being tailored to my unique skill set for max value. Speaking of the Monument: I sold a personal essay called "You're Up, You're Down, You're Up: Finding Direction Inside of an Obelisk" to Salmagundi. They are publishing my short story, "Read the Ice." They publish four stories a year. Two of the last ones were by Ann Beattie and Joyce Carol Oates. Names which mean something to the same people in publishing who ban and blacklist me. And I'm getting what I get against so much resistance. I am shot dead before I turn up at the rink, shot dead just from my name and what I represent, before the work has any chance. I don't even get a chance to play. The puck isn't dropped. I'm assassinated en route, in the car.

"Ice" will be my second short story with Salmagundi. The first was "Mint State 87," which is in the as-of-yet-unsold Cheer Pack: Stories, which has "Find the Edges" from Harper's, "First Responder" from the VQR, "Last Light Out" from Glimmer Train, "Pikes and Pickerels" from Commentary. I've also done a personal essay in the past for Salmagundi called "A Midshipman Lights Out," which was about the horror and hell having to leave my house in Rockport I am fighting so hard to get back. That essay is in the also yet-to-be-sold, Glue God: Essays (and Tips) for Repairing a Broken Self. The first thing I ever did for Salmagundi was on Jackson Pollock. Really strong. I wish I had a link. (Only a fraction of what I have published is up in the various categories of this site; I need some assistants for things of that nature, given my commitments, and, frankly, an archivist or two. Later. The time will come. A lot of the arts-related writing I have done--like in ARTnews, for instance--doesn't have links. We'd have to take photographs and create accessible digital files.) The Monument essay is being refashioned into part of a memoir called Saving Angles: Finding Direction and Meaning in Life's Unlikely Corners.

I sold a short story called "Post-Fletcher" to Friction. They have a branch in the States and in the UK. That story is about a man who is not dead who nonetheless has a ghost. And the ghost is kind of tearing up his quiet seaside town. And so the people of the town get together and they sort of ask this guy to fix this problem, to mind his ghost, as it were. And the ghost isn't what maybe we expect the ghost to be. It's a very creative story with a delicious premise. In some ways it's about closure. Doesn't always take the form you think.

I have the ultimate anti-MFA short story. I wrote it a few weeks ago, and over the weekend I was fixing some parts. You talk about satire and lighting up a kind of person and bad writing...Swift didn't hit anyone or anything this hard. And it's all true. It nails the problem and the problem people. And it's a great story. The response would be sizable within their community. Something like "Fitty" would garner a sizable response out in the world. I wouldn't want to cap anything with this other story. But I do know these people wouldn't be able to stop sharing it and looking at it. It's called "I Fucking Hate Myself (Early Semester Writing Exercise)." Reading it back, fixing what needed fixing, I was just thinking, "Damn, sir, you have something legitimately special here." What an absolute blast from the furnace. And it's funny. So spot on.

I wrote this excellent op-ed for a well-known place saying that we hold professional sports championships in too sacrosanct a regard, that they should be vacated in certain situations. Everything need not be so damn sacred. And the editor really liked the piece. But then they say to me that they got one by an ex-commissioner of baseball, so they were going with the "authoritative" voice. I saw the piece. It was not good. It was meaningless. It was wishy-washy. It largely said, cheating is bad, but you can't take away titles, too bad about the cheating. And I read the reaction from people. They didn't like this piece. They thought it was obvious and ineffectual. I saw so many people say, "Someone should do a piece on why titles should be vacated," and I'm sitting there, like always, and I'm thinking, I have what you want, people, I said it, I said it with balls, I said it with my full acuity. But they went with this old guy who had nothing to say, who did this mealy-mouthed piece." I knew what I had. So it didn't run, then they didn't pay me. Then they turned down something else they had me do over. Which I am now doing again. There was another thing I did in the middle of all of this--well, the end of it, more like, I guess--and hopefully that works out, because America would love that one.

This is a recent Downtown radio segment, in which I discuss a litany of sonic pioneers in Herschel Evans (tenor sax player with Count Basie's band who died really young; foil to Lester Young), Johnnie Johnson (Chuck Berry's pianist), Earl Palmer (drummer extraordinaire who worked with Little Richard and Sam Cooke), Hubert Sumlin (Howlin' Wolf's guitarist who absolutely shreds), Tony Williams (arguably the best post-war jazz drummer), and Jimmy Blanton (Ellington's star-crossed bassist who died at twenty-three and was maybe better on his instrument than anyone else in jazz history ever was on theirs; I also have an essay on Blanton that I need to sell).

And this is another recent Downtown segment with me discussing a huge slew of subjects: Shelley's "Ode to a Skylark" (1820), Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 30 (1820), Jean Cocteau's Blood of a Poet (1930), Duke Ellington's Fargo, ND gig from 1940--which I once wrote about for The Smart Set, I believe--or somebody--and which features our man Mr. Blanton--and the current Boston Bruins and something quite notable about their core.

On Downtown tomorrow I will discuss the creepiest--though it's also quite funny--video in hockey history (I wrote about it in these pages a couple weeks ago), plus the 1980 Miracle on Ice team, and we'll have a conversation about who the greatest hockey goal scorer is. The way I see it, here are your choices: Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Hull, Mike Bossy, Alexander Ovechkin, Phil Esposito, Wayne Gretzky, Maurice Richard, Brett Hull. I'll go through the candidacy of each. What's my answer? Well, you'll have to listen, won't you! (You don't have to listen live--the links always go up in the News section, then they get archived in the On air section.)

And here I am being interviewed for the Songs of Note podcast for a second time. It's a 45-minute interview, about Joy Division's final song, "Ceremony." Which I also just wrote about and, once more, was undertaken as a work I would 1. Sell as a stand-alone piece and 2. Shape into the memoir of Saving Angles.

What I'm doing with something like these podcast appearances is building the body of work. Which is already larger than anyone body of work there has been, and would be the largest if I die later today. I am not just going on to talk. I am creating a work of art. It's radio art. Different than book art, or short story art, or personal essay art, or Many Moments More journal art, but also not different. Other people just talk. They um. They ahh. They you know. I hone. I infuse. I shape. I bestow, I reach, I make the music, the poetry, the connection and connective moments. One can download the audio, and there it is forever.

At some point a site can be created, box sets can come out, documenting the spoken-out-loud portion of my art. If you listen to it, it takes five seconds to realize that no one sounds like this guy on the air anywhere, ever. People don't talk like he does. They don't know what he does, their mind does not move nearly as fast. And it's all expressed perfectly, as though it had been written out and labored over for a long, long time. When in reality it is me in my disgusting bathroom in this apartment of filth, with no room to move, because I am hated by an entire industry. But at some point--and I don't mean with the sweet release of death--I have to believe that that hate will not matter. I will be the decider. To use a line of Padraig, one of my characters, who is actually referenced in "Mint State 87" from Salmagundi, and who debuted in The Iowa Review. Saucy Irish criminal. He's good. Rich character. Mentally. He doesn't have any money. But kind of debauched in a Falstaffian way, in that he has honor.

That being the case, and the response having been what it has been to my appearances on this podcast (I had been on earlier to talk about Billie Holiday's "Solitude"), I'm going to do a few more in the next little bit. One will be on the Live at Leeds' version of "My Generation," from the Who; another on Sam Cooke's "Bring It All Home to Me" (which was a response to this Charles Brown song, which I think is about dying); and another on Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks," which will maybe get the people off my back who get upset that I don't think Zeppelin was very good. (Here's a rare live version of the song from 1975; it was a bear to play live so it wasn't long for the set list.) I don't. Sorry. But I like them, and I listen to them, or would, anyway, if my life wasn't all about trying to get out of this hell presently. I never kick back and listen to something, read something. Even things like yesterday, going around like that, it's just to get me out of here.

On Friday a feature appeared in The American Interest. I didn't look at it. I know they took some sting out of the scorpion's tale. At some point I remarked that there is a little Aaron Hernandez inside of all of this. Not, meaning, we are all murderers, but almost all of us--not me; but you only know that from this fulsome journal--live a double-life. We are less and less our real selves. We are performative. The worst thing that has ever happened to humankind is what the internet has done to us mentally, to our identities, to culture, reason, balance, to truth, to growth. It has de-personed many of us. it has de-relationshiped relationships. It has disconnected us, replaced substance with illusion. It has fostered mental illness and self-medication. It has grown a culture of lies and self-lies. It's made us about pose rather than reality. Fear rather than just being. A resistance to vulnerability. To frankness. To openness. We don't seek and search; we wall away. We play it safe.

The editor was not comfortable with me making this point, which I made clearly, with care, as I always do. But I would imagine that enough of me remains in the piece to more or less carry the day. Somebody did get in touch to say they were shocked--in a good way--to see such writing in an "elite" magazine, something so thought-provoking and different because you never get that from elite magazines. Their word, not mine. )You get stock writing and pablum, they said.) I think this is true. I don't think you get it much of anywhere. But you always get it from me. And that, in part, is going to underwrite my revolution. As I said that I have chosen to believe is coming.

We also now have the cover of Meatheads Say the Realest Things: A Satirical (Short) Novel of the Last Bro. I love how it looks. How did it come about? In every instance of all of my books, the cover idea was mine. With Dark March, I sketched out what I was thinking, then an artist did the painting. For Buried, I found an old postcard, then the publisher went to work on it, so we collaborated that way, but she executed what you see off of that postcard I had hunted down. For this one, I had an image, she took out a lot of excess buildings, a ledge, put the guy up on the roof, rather than at mid-building level. She did all of the lettering, picked the font, the colors. All her. And it came together really fast, and it looks wonderful, I think. It's so in keeping with the spirit of the book. It's a little druggy--at one point, he takes some mushrooms and imagines his father's ghost lives inside of a Hitachi vibrator he has in his bathroom that his cousin--a ladies' man--gave him--and cartoon-y. And most covers I see are so leaden, so safe, prosaic, boring, meaningless, stiff, blah, joyless, just like the prose contained within.

I have had the Fugs song "Rhapsody of Tuli" in my head for a couple days.

On Friday, Emma frantically texted me that Benny had eaten some chocolate, and she had left the keys downstairs, would I check on him to make sure he was not dead. I was going to head out to Salem, but I stuck around so I could pop in on Mr. B., who was fine. Though he's kind of getting fat, I must say. Am I allowed to say that, given that he's a dog? Or should I add that he's just living his best life? I sat with him for a while to make sure he was okay. He was.


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