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Maple Street

Sunday 3/15/20

I hate the expression "the GOAT." I am convinced there is a direct correlation between your intelligence and how often you use that phrase.

Came out sixty years ago this month, the Twilight Zone episode, "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street." Not the best Twilight Zone episode--though it's up there--but easily the most prescient.

The social distancing term is ironic. We are more disconnected from each other than at any point in human history. We are more disconnected now than we were before the discovery of electricity. We are more disconnected than when we lived in caves. It's amusing to watch these simple-minded people squirm. They are people in publishing. They are supposed to be the people of books, of internal depth. And they can't manage a couple hours on their own. Social media use will spike, because very few people--I'd say maybe 1/1000th of 1%--can be with their own thoughts. Actively engage their own thoughts. The people in my life who were largely not good people would lecture me on what I needed to do starting back in 2012. What I was doing was walking what turned out to be 3000 miles a year. That's a real number. Walking that many miles a year, doing nothing but thinking. In this head. With this brain. That's the width of the country. Every year. I did this up until 2016, when I started climbing the Bunker Hill Monument, which is a version of that. And these simple people, who would have fallen apart having to spend a single weekend on their own with their thoughts, in the rosiest of times, were lecturing me on how to be, how to see the world. Do you know how much I changed and grew as a writer during that time? As an artist? Which makes it all the more telling that I could be in The American Scholar in 2006, when I was a pup, basically, but not now, when I'm a vastly more evolved writer and artist. What, I got worse? Of course not. The hate (courtesy of Bob Wilson and Sudip Bose) set in. It's never about the work. It's how they feel about you. Always. And it's that way with their awards, with who gets to be a "star," all of it. Never, ever, ever about the work. It's broken people running a popularity contest in which they want you to be a little lap dog and be just like them. Think like them, produce like they do (which is to say, as little as they do), have their background. But when I think about the things that went into making me the artist I am right now--what Molly did, the thousands of miles walking, the climbing, all of the ways and times I remade myself, all of the tens of thousands of works I wrote in that period alone, cracking open one mystery after another of artistic creation--I think, good Lord, how could anyone else compete? What were they doing? And they weren't born with any ability for starters.

So it's funny to me that people incapable of being with themselves have to try and do a little bit more of that.

But, Southie being Southie, and this being the weekend that St. Patrick's Day is normally celebrated, a bunch of Bostonians tried to go out and get drunk. I think St. Patrick's day is like a more low rent version of New Year's. It's sloppy. New Year's is sloppy, too, but when you see it in old films, it's classy. St. Patrick's is about drinking and vomiting in the street in late morning/early afternoon. In architecturally blighted areas. People aren't exactly reading The Aran Islands and listening to Pogues airshots (Mr MacGowan, incidentally, is an actual genius; Jon Peede, when he was at the VQR, was talking about my own genius and added that he had known many geniuses; and it's like, no, dude, you haven't; doesn't work that way).

1379 days without a drink. That's 197 weeks.

It is odd on dating sites when women say they have two kids who are their BFFs. You ought not to look at your child as your best friend. That's not going to go well for anybody.

More ridiculous Tom Brady speculation, and people who claim to have sources who have no sources who are just lying for attention and clicks. He's coming back to the Patriots. I think this might be it for the NHL season. It's going to be it for the regular season. Pastrnak is not going to get his fifty goals, which means he might never. Hard to score fifty. The delay will help baseball as a product, something I want to write an op-ed about. Baseball does better with a faster pace--both in terms of individual games and with shorter seasons where games have greater importance. A 100 game season--if they even get a season that long--will be more exciting.

On Tuesday on Downtown I'll talk about the contents of the last blog. Writing the story, my tips for growth and making the most of opportunities right now--opportunities of development, not price-gouging opportunities--and also Daniel Defoe, Samuel Pepys, and the musical revolution--of sorts--that grew out of the Black Death. I accidentally turned on Felger and Maz on Friday and it was so bad. Two guys without a clue, with no radio ability, guys who are dependent on manufacturing faux-negativity and someone else to provide all of their story lines and content, just embarrassing themselves. Stumbling through their words, hardly sounding like adults, almost like high school students trying to play a theater production role of smart grown-ups and people of the world. Kimball remarked to me last night that people with sports shows are in trouble right now. If I had a sports show, I could thrive whatever was going on. People listen to these shows for the faux-negativity, the gossip, and to hear talk of their heroes, even though they're men in their fifties. Or twenties. Or whatever. I don't think they like these shows that much. They're what's there. Same with publishing, but publishing is far worse. People don't like those books. No one actually likes There There or a Laura van den Berg story collection. You're just told to worship these people. And what are your other options? Your other options are actual good books, but people go for what is pushed. If you read this journal regularly, you've probably discovered many books, stories, films, pieces of music that you loved, but you didn't discover them on your own. To paraphrase Steppenwolf, I was the pusher. People go for what is mass-pushed--what gets the reviews, the awards, the industry people banging the drum. You can't overestimate what happens, how turned off as readers, and as buyers, those people then are after they essentially get conned into buying and partaking--for a little bit--of shit that couldn't honestly interest anyone. Someone truly gifted at radio, at talking, at storytelling, elucidating, is going to be every bit as compelling if the sports are there or not, in the day in, day out sense. They're going to be creative, have unique perspectives, be wise, be funny. I could do that.

Yesterday I saw people in a baseball history forum arguing about who was the better hitter, Ty Cobb or Ted Williams. One person commented that the latter hit over .400 three times--which is false, he did it once, and very famously at that--and people were just like, "I know Ted hit over .400 three times," and everyone said this! That's the world. Completely false, but there was everyone claiming it was true, no knowledge, no basic knowledge, and this hey, fuck it, anything you want to be can be what you want it to be folderol.

There might not be a full roster of guests this week on Downtown, so I offered to fill in any gaps. I'd like to come on for an hour, with the commercial breaks and everything, no planned topics to talk about, and just do the radio. Just chat. And it would be fascinating. Conversations with me are not like any conversation you'll have. When you're just sitting there and we're in the Starbucks. The range of topics, the natural flow from one topic to the next, the humor, the anecdotes, the personal details, the wealth of knowledge, the edge. It's very different. I've wanted to do this kind of potluck thing before, but I'm less keen to do it for the normal twenty minute segment. Maybe I could read some copy. Be like Orson Welles plugging soup, but better.

This is a still from "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street." Look at that shirt. Like a cross between Pangaea and paramecia.

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