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Thursday 4/29/20

The C-Dawg was not exactly in fine-fettle today; felt weak and light-headed after mere three mile run. Not what we are looking for. Listening to the Libertines' Babyshambles sessions right now. Excellent. Brilliant band for a while. "Don't Look Back Into the Sun" is one of my favorite songs by anyone. Saw the second season of After Life. Eh. He's not working with a lot, and stretching what he has too thin. Some amusing lines, but they feel like Gervais shtick (like with the prick therapist). He's done those better lines before, or variants thereof. Relying on the past. The show is not surprising, pat, and also not especially believable. Gervais is clearly large-hearted, though. I think The Office may have been the only great art he had in him. Here is yesterday's Downtown segment on various radio things--Suspense, X Minus One, Ned Martin, Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division Peel sessions. There was a lot more to get to, but not enough time--I probably proposed talking about too much. I'll save some of the leftover stuff for later. I have been listening to a lot of X Minus One episodes. I'll not try and list them out. But they are very good--they're better acted, as well, than any other radio series (though the person who plays the scientist in the Lights Out episode of "Bathysphere" deserves special mention). I wrote a 3000+ word story today. This was not one of the two stories I've recently been mentioning. I wrote a lot of this story last night when I was asleep. It is a major work. I'll let it speak for itself here, with the beginning portion. This is some big boy writing. The story is called "Rain Dried." Again, utterly unlike anything in publishing right now. I was looking at some stories in The Baffler last night. Such pretentious, boring twaddle. It's like everything has to suck and bore you out of your mind for them to run it. And, of course, you have to be one of them. I'm not completely done with the story. I'll go over it another dozen or so times, I expect. Compete with me. Would love to get everyone in publishing out in the open and let's fucking compete, let the best work win.


***

My parents seemed to know every visitable farm in the wilds of western New York, which wasn’t actually very wild but was wild to me at the time.


Had someone said my father possessed a redoubtable, epic rag, my mother a spray bottle of supernal solution, and they worked together to scrub the days so that they smelled of drying lawns, burnt apples, and oak bark, I wouldn’t have argued.


These were not ordinary farms. At the front of a rough-timbered country shop, hawking apricot wines and bundles of asparagus, there’d be a parking lot of talc-colored, alopecia patches of earth, loose soil like the dust from onion skins that somehow stayed in place, what grass there was growing in arbitrary clumps. There’s an obduracy to grass you don’t get with trees, a kind of little-person syndrome perhaps best appreciated when you’re a kid.


You parked, then you wandered. The animals weren’t fenced in. Goats nipped freely sans impunity, but with a knack for catching shirt sleeves or pants legs rather than wrists or knees. The sheep sat perpetually upon the ground as if in imitation of wool-covered canopies shielding something vital beneath them, or as though walking was beneath them. Either way, there was a beneath in there somewhere. It felt satisfying.


All of the farms in western New York couldn’t have been this kind of farm. Most weren’t. They were businesses not intended for visitors, certainly not turkey-necking, an old-time expression my father used with irony because it made my mom laugh, though it only meant looking hard at something, focused. Like you just had to see what was what, or else a part of you would be weakened.


A handsome man might walk by when we were having lunch at a roadside eatery where hot dogs were billed as the best in the valley on sticky, laminated menus reprised at the next stop up the road, as if nobody could admit defeat, or make a clear-cut case for victory. “You turkey-necking that fella?” my dad would say to my mother, then wink at me. “My eyes are for one person,” she’d respond, and kiss me in the booth next to her, my father then concluding the repeatable jape by saying, “That’s okay, I can deal with losing to a better man.”


The drives were long and they were leisurely, but they always felt like they had a purpose. I had a sister named Galen for a while. That was the name she came with. We didn’t give her that name. I told my parents her name frightened me. It made me think of what a villain might be called in my Thor comic books, a legit threat who could bring about the end of the series.

I knew comic book heroes sometimes died. The comic book creators would actually go there. Which you respected in a way, but it was also fucked up. You didn’t get that in the movies I saw or the books I read. But the comic books? They’d blow up your favorite superhero in an inter-planetary detonation, and you’d have to move on to following someone else, which you thought would never be the same, until it was, and then it ended again.


There was a girl at my school named Sarah Shapiro who thought Robin in the Batman comics was cute. I liked her but she didn’t like me. “I’d have his babies if I could,” she said. I had kissed her on the edge of her jaw in the woods behind her house. Left my lips there, licked the bottom of cheek a little because I thought that’s what you did, like my mouth was an airlock with a tongue coming out of it.


“Now you go,” I said when I could talk again, turning my head, lining it up for her. She told me to stuff it. When I showed her a comic book next week at school that I had where Robin died—he was killed in an explosion and his face was gouged on the cover—she told me to stuff it again, which felt fair, though I didn’t know why.


Galen was what we called retarded at the time, before it was special needs. Not that it shows much in a baby. The people at the adoption agency had my parents attend a kind of bespoken pre-adoption counseling program so that they knew what they’d have coming. They had waited for a long time, as I understood it. Years. Because my mother couldn’t have any more children. I had done something when I came out. I pictured it like reaching back with my hand and pulling the last branch off a tree that once had berries on it. Maybe children were in short supply during that era. Or else there were laws against going another place to get a child. You had to stay in your state, your county. I didn’t know.


“You want a sister, don’t you?” my mom would ask, when it was just the two of us hanging out. That’s what she called it, even when I was little. Felt cool. We didn’t just spend time together, we hung out. There was an element of nonchalant excellence. Vaguely badass insouciance, but not the dick-ish kind. May as well have smoked a joint and listened to a Smiths LP, topped off with some Can. I’d say “Yes, of course,” because it looked like it meant a great deal to her. “Nothing more,” I’d add, selling it nicely. Once my father told me that it’s not lying if you think you can actually make something true.