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Literary talk at the Starbucks, Matthew Perry, lung cancer

Saturday 12/16/23

After doing many unpleasant things yesterday--more of which I will be doing shortly--I had to get away, so I went to the Starbucks down the street to think and read. As I was doing so at a table, a man waiting for his drink at the counter asked, "Are you reading Ulysses?" because I guess he thought it was a long book. It wasn't Ulysses-long, though, which someone who read such things would have known, and I admit, I thought, "'s a guy you'll have to talk to now."

I told him, no, it was a collection of Henry James's criticism--LOA's European Writers and The Prefaces, to be exact--to which he said, "Henry James had things published in Boston." Um...okay. Then, for whatever reason, he brought up Thomas Wolfe. I said that you don't encounter too many references to Wolfe in 2023, and then he said something I wasn't expecting.

"The older I get," he began, "the more I just want cliches. Give me all the cliches. That's where it's at. Cliches. Nice and simple."

He was being serious. I found that incredibly depressing in what had already been an awful day. His drink came and he said "Have a good day," and I was thinking, "Right, enjoy your cliches."

Cause of death report or whatever it is technically called came out for Matthew Perry. All of it is sad. He was clearly someone who needed humor in his life to cope and to try to deal with his demons. No matter his level of material wealth, it seems that each day was a struggle for him. I have thoughts about strength and weakness that I will keep to myself in this case, but what takes me aback in how much it chills me is how cruel people are in this world at this point to other people. How dead inside they are in terms of lack of feeling. Mocking comments, cold comments, comments of misinformation without any concern.

People are such cowards and yet they are emboldened to say whatever they want as if they're this divine oracle and the universe requests it of them. There is no self-awareness, and, perhaps worse, no interest in having any self-awareness. It's entirely out-moded. And they are such ghouls. The things they speculate about as if those things had nothing to do with the real life of a real human.

The other day I saw that some young actor--I don't recall who she was or her age--was diagnosed with lung cancer. She may have been in her thirties or forties. No older than her forties. She said that she had never smoked in her life. I'm sure that a diagnosis of lung cancer for someone who is eighty-one who has smoked since they were fourteen is devastating, let alone someone much younger who never smoked.

People responded by being cruel and vicious, practically cheering the news and offering to pick up Death at the airport to help speed him on his way. One person said something like people think that by working out and eating healthily they make this deal with the universe that they'll live a long time--like he already had her half in the grave--and it doesn't work that way. He was just about punching the air in glee.

First of all, people don't think that, even as stupid as most people are. But a lot of them understand that if you take care of yourself, if you do the above things, you have a much better chance of living a long life, and not just a long life, but a long, healthy life--the two together is important. I certainly think this way. If I didn't do a number of the things I do and I drank like I did it would be unrealistic to think I will be sitting there at 100--which is an aim of mine--having just created for the umpteenth time some new form of fiction that day.

People are vicious projectionists, and I'm not talking about slashing a movie screen before running a film. They project as if they're trying to carve someone else up with a blade. It's all about them, of course, but they make someone else--or they try to--their victim.

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