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Makes for a snappy quote that is true in the important sense

Tuesday 8/30/22

I am a little drained, but strong and getting stronger.


Over the weekend I wrote the entire outline for the book on The Curse of the Cat People, which totaled 2300 words. Worked on a story called "Tandemness." I finished up an op-ed for Halloween on F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu. Wrote a different Halloween op-ed today on how it's the most honest of holidays. Also wrote a story today called "Playing Legs." 2000 plus words. Will go over and work on. It's outstanding. One of those titles--like "Last Light Out"--whose pronunciation changes after you read the story. Because it sounds at first like an athlete's playing legs, right? And it's not. Sometimes we pronounce words and clusters and groupings of words differently--cadentially, that is--based on their meaning.


I saw on Facebook--in some group, not with any "friends" of mine--where someone was discussing a piece I wrote, saying they read it in this particular venue, which is one that I never agreed to have run my work and which certainly never paid me, and, further, one which ignored me for years. So apparently they just stole it. I'll look more into it later. I'm too focused right now on composing and getting things done, but it'll be handled. Same person then said that they came to this site and read a different piece on the same subject (it was about ghost stories), and that made me realize, yet again--because I'm always aware of it--how woefully out of date the Film, Literature, and Music writings sections on here are, and also the Short fiction section.


What happens is someone comes to the site, sees those sections, thinks "Oh, wow, that's so much material," and it's but a fraction of it in reality. I'm going to have to get it fixed. That means pulling down everything that's in those sections, and putting it all back up with the rest of the links that have never been up on here. It's like fifty pages of links in a Word document. A huge project.


A couple weekend texts:


C: I write better than God Gods.


C: I just wrote something about granola bars that would make a stone cry.


Yesterday I ran 2000 stairs and did fifty push-ups. On Saturday I ran 3000 stairs and did 200 push-ups. Sunday I ran 5000 stairs and did a personal best 600 push-ups. Today I ran 1000 stairs and did 100 push-ups.


Text from my little neighbor: "record your push-ups this time because I don't think I can just sit back and believe you on these numbers you're giving me"


We hung out and talked for five hours on Saturday. Our regular Starbucks was closed, so we went to Faneuil Hall. What do we talk about? Life, death, our friends, our families, the past, the present, the future, fears, anxieties, music, film, writing. No one has spoken to her about college yet, so I tried to give her some guidance there. We also sat in the Paul Revere Mall and listened to a couple women sing arias as we chatted, and in the building out in the hallway. Twice a family walked past us, with maybe two hours in between. They thought we were locked out. "What do you think people think about us?" my neighbor asked. I asked her what she meant. "Like what do they think we are?" I thought of a scaled down version of a response that Fitty has at one point in the story that bears her name. She's not the teacher in that story, but there's this moment--and it's reprised in this startling and different way--where she's talking to her teacher, this older person. And she starts running through what they're not. These different things, before she arrives at what they are. What that is comes up in the final line of the story, which is the greatest ending in any work of fiction or art there is. Period. Nothing could get me to change my mind about that. I tie it, but you won't find me saying that anything beats that ending and last line. It's not the same, of course. My neighbor was talking about her anxiety, and how she has such a hard time talking. She is always searching for the right way to say things. I said that's called being thoughtful. And not just speaking in cliches or saying what one thinks is expected. That's a good way to be a human and to contribute. And it gets easier in time and with practice. The words are easier to find. Because of my mind, people are usually intimidated by me, even terrified of me. It's been that way all of my life, but even more so, I'd say, in the last ten years, and the last five more than that. I just keep progressing. But she said that I was the person she was least self-conscious with. Because she knows I listen to her, and I care about what she says. She knows what I think about her and her abilities. So that was a nice change.


Letter to friend's daughter seemed to have helped. He said it made her happy and she relaxed/chilled some. He called me later with her so that I could talk to her, but I had fallen asleep and didn't hear the phone.


This is from one of the op-eds. I'm writing so much it's hard for even me to document it on here. There are a half dozen new op-eds in the last few days.


Children are this way. They don’t hide their passions. They want to share those interests with anyone who cares about them. Death itself is a great unmasker. We may talk a big game about what we’re not scared of, but when sickness enters our lives—be it our own lives or those of our loved ones—there’s a tendency to get awfully real—and awfully humble—awfully fast. We develop a respect for what matters most.


Halloween is the fun version of this, when death is a specter and not a reality. Halloween’s form of death rekindles the same emotions that once made us excited to watch a new monster movie or get in costume for a night of trick or treating with friends. There is no pretense with Halloween: whatever you love is cool because you love it. Better yet, you love it because it stirs your imagination.


There’s a salubrious byproduct in the very idea of dressing up. Even if we don’t wear the Frankenstein monster garb ourselves, we become monsters via a contact costume high. We allow ourselves to become more real—more inspirited as ourselves—by pretending. There’s no pretense. This is the best kind of pretending. A pretending that reveals our loves and interests, our need for playfulness, rather than the pretending that all is well when it’s not.


Halloween is healthy this way. If you were an alien watching us, you might think at first that celebrating a day of the dead was grim fare indeed. Unless you’re a newborn, chances are remote that your life hasn’t been touched and scarred by death. But Halloween is a celebration of life’s essential components. We don one mask to drop a host of others.


I'm not knocking other periods, because they're all of a piece, but these last three or four weeks of entries in this journal have been excellent.


I sent someone the Snoopy Come Home essay and the short story, "Sky Neighbors." Pitched something on that sequel to A Christmas Story.


Here is tonight's radio interview on Downtown, with me talking about the Beach Boys' Smile. There has to be something said about the books, so will make a mental note to bring that up. Author of eight books, or feature one of them, or author of many books on all kinds of subjects, fiction and non. Something. Can mix it up, but there has to be some mention of books. And I need to get to twenty books, fast. I'm working so hard. It's like at least 3000 formal words each day, or 4000, for pieces, stories, books, and then it's this journal on top of that, so there are many days now where I'm writing 5000, 6000, 7000 words, plus letters and pitches.


This is from the Elvis Christmas piece, which I worked on more today:


That audible theme of a gift being given is why it’s so easy to love this LP. “White Christmas” is the theoretically secular cousin to the theoretically sacred “Silent Night,” with similar aims, but also tweaks in those intentions.


Have you ever noticed that at Christmas you almost have to stop yourself if you’re trying to determine if a piece of music is sacred or secular? The world comes together musically during the season, and songs tend to pool rather than separate into factions, while still maintaining their admirable and distinctive traits, the way your kids do. They’re your kids and they belong to that familial grouping, but they’re so different from each other. “Joy to the World” is a sacred song, but who thinks of it that way? It is for the world, being given to the world, proclaimed on behalf of the world, after all, and were you to call it an early form of rock and roll, I’d salute your clever theory.


“Silent Night” is a song for visiting angels, of a single joyous note arriving at a late hour in a spot where a peace both divine and human will now forever dwell. What is holiness? I don’t think it’s man in the sky stuff. I think it’s innermost human stuff. There is a cacophony inside all of us. Layers of it. But down somewhere, in the deepest portion of the core, there is peace. We try to get there, if we are wise. And that may be everything—that attempt to get to that spot, and hear its sound. Let the rest of ourselves—all of those other layers—be filled with it.

“Silent Night” represents the inside, that center vein of our us-ness, which we allow ourselves to accept; “White Christmas” is that inside having come to the surface and out into the world, making its snowy mark on the social calendar and what one realistically—in terms of the finite—hopes to experience—even weather-wise—during the Christmas season. “White Christmas” has a concern with literal weather, a bedecking; but it’s also about what that form of precipitation symbolically represents, that same inner peace.


Thus both “Silent Night” and “White Christmas”—and Elvis musically intuited this—are simultaneously sacred and secular. Neither requires the formal faith of religion, because religion itself vouchsafes that faith is beyond dogma. The dogma might be a road to get to faith, the same as the one over which a horse-pulled sled could have taken a family of New Englanders to a Christmas party in 1800, with the brood marveling at the crisp snow and another opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for their bonds. That seems to me a rather holy image, and a holy crossing, because of everything that it is beyond. I can hear either of these songs—especially as Elvis sings them—when I imagine that scene.


He just keeps proving it every day. In multiple works and ways, every single day.


Here's some closing levity, depending on how one likes to look at things. If you're living it, it's more depressing than anything, but it's all about remembering to keep eyes on the prize right now.