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Of dogs and Starbucks

Wednesday 1/2/19


Useless today. Formatting Word docs right now for the unleashing of prose. They sit in a line, like a column of soldiers, at the left of the computer, and I pull one up, and have it, pull up another, have at it, have at them both simultaneously, have at a third, a fourth. I need to get my momentum, get rolling down hill again.


Tonight I am reading Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh books for work and drinking a lot of cranberry juice and hibiscus tea. One might recall the woman I confessed to having a crush on at the Starbucks. She is super smart, and I've not seen anyone more attractive, and in such a distinctive way. One of those rare people who clearly has lots of confidence, as she should, and is very ingratiating at the same time. That's not easy to pull off. She has, as I remarked, a boyfriend, I believe, and if it is who I think it is, he's actually quite a nice guy, so good for them. Still, if that doesn't work out, or I'm off in this conclusion, that might not be so awful either. I'm somewhat joking. I couldn't lose the Starbucks. I sit there a lot, on account of this apartment, which I hate being in.


I doubt she will see this, and anyway, I am writing this journal as I would write it to and for myself. Not that I wish it to be solely for me, or principally for me; not that I don't view it as a full-fledged artistic undertaking, a series of books that will document this life, of this artist, until the end of my mortal life. I think about the scope of these early volumes, compared to what later volumes will contain after I've gotten where I am going, when it is no longer an aside about this apartment, but rather an anecdote about closing on another property. You will get there, my friend. Fight for now, find the courage I know you have. Anyway, I was at the Starbucks a few days ago, when this woman I have described above, asked me, as I ordered, how my holiday was. This was, I believe, the day after Christmas. I said that it was mediocre at best, which really wasn't true. You don't want to say, at the front of the Starbucks line, that it was emotionally disemboweling. Right? Not smooth. Not sexy. She seems to work a lot on holidays. I imagine because her family is local and she can just pop over whenever. She then asked what I did do for work. I tried to explain this. I hate explaining this. Yesterday a woman asked me what I did for work, and I tried, leaving out so much, to answer. She had pressed me three or four times. It was obvious I didn't really want to go into it, but each time I threw out a word or two--I'm a writer, e.g.--she pressed for more details. Finally I said, "I write fiction, and it's also my job to be an expert on a lot of things like art, sports, film, literature, and music, and do op-eds and some radio." She then called me an arrogant asshole.


You know...it's nothing I want to answer. And, if anything, my answer, after she pressed me for more details with her fourth follow-up question, was a drastic understatement. Today another woman asked me what I loved most about my job. I hate my job. I find that so presumptuous. You can't conceive of someone doing something for a larger, higher purpose, at least during part of the time they're doing what they're doing? There can be a reason you do something beyond fun. My job can and will bring me rewards at some point, and I'll enjoy it then, I'll enjoy just composing and innovating and not having to be in this war I am in--for it is a war--and reaping and reaping like an absolute mother, but right now...did you ever hear that song by Travis, "Writing to Reach You"? They were a good band for a while. First album was great, even. I'm writing to reach you write now. I'm writing to help you, to help the world. I'm sacrificing for that. I'm taking a lot on. I'm going through enough to kill many people many times over. I don't enjoy it. I don't enjoy that. Would you? Do you want me to quit? You don't. Unless you're one of my enemies, who knows what is coming, who knows that I am going to prevail. But I don't think Beethoven would have quit, Van Gogh didn't quit, John Keats didn't quit. We all have different circumstances. Mine is unique in that I'm not Van Gogh, who wasn't getting feted, awarded, what he had coming to him, as befitting his work. But Van Gogh didn't have his work shown anywhere. It would be like Van Gogh being the best painter, having his work shown everywhere, more than everyone else, doing every kind of work--representational painting, abstracts, sculpture, collage, pastels, watercolors, drawings--at the highest level, higher levels, and getting shut out, not being awarded, compensated, reviewed, etc. So this is very strange, and I can't think of anyone--there isn't anyone--who has been in this position.


That's scary. I mention courage. This is historically uncharted. It would almost be easier, better, if nothing had come out, if I was not so screamingly in plain view. That's where the mind fuck reaches its greatest angle of penetration. I don't want to go into it at this point on some dating app. If you were the love of my life, an eternal best friend, too, I'd go into it. But that's going to take months, if not years to bring someone up to speed on how it is here, and hopefully by then it all would have passed, this storm, but even still, what I do, what I am, the artist I am, is complicated. I don't have a readymade "I'm a film critic" answer for you. I can't even tell you what kind of fiction I do. Can you tell me? No. I find that "even" the nonfiction side of what I do is very confusing. Sure, it's confusing because why is hockey guy Beatles guy and classical music guy and art guy and on and on? But what am I as a nonfiction writer when I am doing that? I'm not a journalist. I'm not a critic. A journalist shows up and finds things out. I don't do that. I know it all going in. A critic says, this is bad, this is good, buy it, don't buy it. I don't don't do that at all. I'm not a biographer. What I am is a storyteller, who also knows his subject better than anyone, anywhere, who shows you what something is in such a way that not only do you not see it the same way again, or a way you might have if it's your first exposure and something else had brought it to your attention before, but you don't see yourself the same way again, nor the world, be that the world that that particular subject comes from, or the larger world, as in our world, and the world of new ideas you've been introduced to.


That's what I do. So, in a sense, as different as it all looks, when I'm doing the "artier" story like "The Indigo Arms," or one that might look less arty but is not, like "Floor It A.C." (or, if you prefer, The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe or Buried on the Beaches--which should be up on Amazon for purchase some time very soon, to extrapolate that kind of ostensible contrast to the book level), or a piece on "Silent Night," or an essay on a film, or a personal essay, or an op-ed on Jackie Robinson and the various other forms of discrimination, I'm really doing, in my mind, the exact same thing. I'm doing the exact same thing here, with this journal. I'm doing the exact same thing on the radio (one time this past year I even wrote the bulk of a piece live on the radio, and just typed it up later). It just never looks the same way, but that's kind of the magical process, or, anyway, it's just something I have, that I've always known I had, even before I could do any of it. What I do I can pour into anything, no matter the shape of the vessel.


So, I tried to explain what I did--saying nothing in the above paragraph--then quickly gave up, asking if she (we're back at the Starbucks now) had a piece of paper. She tore off a section of an old receipt, and I wrote down the name of the site, while saying, "I understand if you thought I was a man of leisure who lounged about cafes all day," which made her laugh the kind-sounding, sweet laugh she has. But I don't think she went to the site. Never said anything later. Then again, people do tend to do that. They don't know how to talk to me. They're intimidated. But I don't think that was the case here. She just strikes me as someone who'd be exceedingly adroit with whatever she wished to say. Good listener, too. Watch some people some time and how they listen to others. You can tell that some people--and it's the minority--are really listening. They want to know more. They're naturally curious. Most people are working on what they're going to say next, or just waiting for their turn to rattle on. And the people who are the best listeners, are, not surprisingly, the best talkers.


By the way: a long time before he got good at painting, Van Gogh was amazing at drawing. Check out some of the "scribbles" in the margins of his letters. I would argue that Van Gogh learned to paint from how he drew. I'd also argue that that's how he learned to write as well as he did. He was a better writer of letters than he was a painter, and I am not insulting his painting in saying that.


Something interesting did happen at the Starbucks the other day. Before going in, I was at the ATM around the corner. There was an older man at the machine when I entered. His age had nothing to do with the fact that he was one of those people--you know what I'm talking about--who absolutely sets up shop at the ATM. If the machine would cut their hair, give them a shave, buff their nails, they'd be a'okay with that as you stood and waited. My goodness. We were there a while. Finally, he leaves, I use the machine and in I go into Starbucks where, of course, this guy is in line. He has his bag on on the counter at the register, he's taking up all of the space, the barista on the other register on the other side of this guy has to wave at me for me to order, over the older guy, as it were--he ain't moving for nobody, nor so much as taking up a little less space--so I have to be quite forceful with my voice to be heard from that distance, with the normal Starbucks ambient sound swirling around. Irksome! Just one of those things from everybody's day.


I sit down, and I'm facing the door. There is a police officer in the cafe. Now, I should say that I am quite pro-blue. I am not--ha ha--one of these SJWs who want to disarm the police, who think they are slave catchers and murderers. I think, like with any profession, there are the people who do their job, and their are the bad people. Power-abusers. Assholes. I would estimate that that's, I don't, twenty percent of police officers. Twenty-percent of any profession is probably bad and corrupt people. In publishing it's in the high nineties. Another police officer tears into the cafe, bursting through the door. I saw him come in. He starts yelling across the store--yelling--"Excuse me! Excuse me!" Everyone is freaked out. Because you think he's going to give instructions to vacate the premise or something because something bad has happened.


Nope. He starts barking--he's amped up--"Whose dog is this? Whose dog is this?" Now, people bring their dogs into Starbucks. I assume you're allowed to. They're never chased out by staff. There's also a dog pole--I looked, it's actually called that--outside, where you can tie up your dog. In this case, there was a little dog--maybe fifteen pounds--tied up inside the doorway, in that space between the outer doors and the inner doors. A woman in line turns and says that it is her dog. Cop: "I nearly tore its head off." Now...that's not true. That was his exact language. That's the verb he went with. I understand that this woman should not have tied up her dog there, because you had to walk around it. Most people don't mind that. I will bend down and pet a dog when it's tied up. A lot of people are like that, obviously. But you shouldn't have to skirt a dog, and if you don't want to be touched by dogs, you shouldn't have to be, just because you're going to get your coffee.


But this guy was trying to bully this woman. He had a very violent way about him. He could have said, nicely, "That's your dog? Oh, he's cute. What's his name? Oh, that's a great name. You really shouldn't tie him up there, though." Etc. He went after her hard, though, and he made sure everyone watched him bully. He goes over to the other cop, presumably his partner. I'm watching the woman, who is still in line, waiting for her drink to be made, clearly gathering her thoughts to say something. I didn't blame her. The cop goes up to the line, so he has to walk past the woman again, and she says something. She says she does it all the time, no one has ever complained. What she should have said is where do you get off talking to me like that?


But guess what happens then? I should have seen this coming. The old guy from the ATM, the eater of all the space around him, gets out of his chair, walks across the Starbucks, and says, "Ma'am, I agree with the officer." He says this in this shrieking, trembling voice. He's amped up! "If my granddaughter had come through that door, she would have been scared out of her mind." Ha--you dick! The woman leaves, shook up. The angry cop and the space-eater sit down together--leaving the other cop alone--and proceed to rehash these events for twenty minutes. The cop even gives the space-eater a form so that he can report the woman "next time." They see me looking at them, and they say to me, "You saw it, right?" To which I said, looking at the cop, "Yeah, I saw you be a bully," and then, looking at the space-eater, "and you, at least your time grows short." I don't think he got it. He maybe got it later. The woman I mentioned above was not there as this was going on. People, right? Bow-wow.


And just for the record, if you did listen to that song--I am going to reach you. I am talking to those who don't know me yet.