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Reasonably full day

Thursday 6/3/21

* I wrote another story. 2000 words. "The Summer Friend." This summer--which began for me Saturday--I have written three works of fiction and an op-ed, plus these blogs, which is more than anyone in publishing will write in ten years, before we even get into the quality.


* HATE that man. BAN him.


* If you don't think you did anything wrong, and, what's more, you didn't do anything wrong, don't apologize to this sorry excuse of a culture. Don't do that formal, boilerplate type of apology smacking of the legalese. Say your words. Say your thing. Use your brain, your heart, your integrity, your panache, your humor, your sanity. Be a human. Be a dynamic human. No one does that. I log on Twitter every so often, and it's always a case of who is getting hunted for what they said, and it's almost always nothing. So many people's entire lives are now completely built around the manufactured hunt. Human detritus and zombies. Insanity only goes away when someone--and I haven't seen a single example of this--has the brains and balls to say, "you're not doing me like that." Beat them with brilliance and by the reality that you're an actual human. Let's bring back being a human. Remember that? Being an actual person?


* Saw that Danny Ainge stepped down with the Celtics and Brad Stevens will run the basketball operations. They were a gutless team. Stevens in a higher-up role is not a solution to anything. He's too young. His best attribute is his ability to coach. (Though in college, not the pros.) You don't want to use that attribute for another few years? Or fifteen or twenty? Seems to me like a guy who wants less work, less pressure, and easy money. A guy who has cashed in on real effort in favor of the gravy train. He lost that team this year. So, hey, might as well promote him.


* I find it very hard to watch professional sports in this world. More and more these athletes represent, to me, some of the worst trends and "ideas" that society has to offer. The entitlement, too. And the stupidity. The endless airing of the ass voice. Hockey is the most palatable sport by far right now. And bloody hell--Kyrie Irving did what he did at the end of that last game in Boston and no one lays him out but they have this mega-hug fest after the gentleman's sweep? Have some respect for yourself, your team, your organization, your city. You play a child's game. People pay a lot of money so you can make a lot of money doing something that has no real importance. Have some pride. I don't know if the NBA, as a sport, is a worse product than MLB, but damn those two sports suck right now. The games are so boring. And long. Even basketball games have become long. There's no flow. Everything is a foul. Fouls and hucking threes. And that's pretty much the sport at present. No rivalries, no intensity. Then there are self-serving, myopic, baiting, delusional, holier-than-thou-but-from-a-very-narcissistic person lectures. Who wants that? What person with an interest in athletic drama wants that? What thinker wants that? What grounded, moral, intelligent person wants that?


* That kid who threw the water bottle at Irving is such a bro. It's almost funny how much of a bro cliche he is. And wearing the Celtics jersey without a shirt on under it. Like maybe he'll play.


* Had on the Celtics the other night because I knew it was the last game of the season, baseball is close to unwatchable and I cannot take Dave O'Brien with his horrible yucker's voice on the Red Sox telecast, and I had zero belief that the Hurricanes might beat the Lightning. Saw some of the highlights from the Bruins game the other night. Big game. That could have been the swing point in the series. The Bruins should not lose this series. The Lightning are the team to beat. I don't see anyone knocking them off if it's not the Bruins.


* I saw that Marc-Andre Fleury was nominated for the Vezina. Who cares, right? Well, in a way, it's pretty notable. He's never been nominated before. He'll end up with like the second most wins all-time. He has Cups. Finals runs. But no one has ever really thought of him as elite. If he wins this Vezina, he'll be a lock for the Hall of Fame. Penguins really made the wrong decision with him a few years ago. Then again, sometimes a player needs a change to flourish once more. He'll finish first or second in the voting.


* Someone is going to win the AL batting title hitting .305. And yet, you look around both leagues, in this year of no offense, and it's not like any pitcher's stats stand out to you as remarkable. Because starters are now relievers who just happen to go first and pitch four innings. Maybe five. Sometimes six. Or nine if they have a no-hitter. Excepting deGrom's ERA. But it's a bunch of guys, at the top of the heap, who are 4-3 with a 3.02 ERA. Non-scintillating. So even this Year of the Pitcher isn't particularly cool for pitchers. That's how bastardized and boring baseball is now. The sport has nothing to hang its proverbial cap on.


* I have no energy. I have no hope. Energy is often sourced from hope. Trying to find energy without hope is one of the hardest things to do, and one of the most draining. So you have no energy, and then trying to find some, or force some into yourself, drains you further.


* On a dating app I'll sometimes see someone who is widowed. They'll be young. These are the only people I've found who tend to say anything honest or that is not a cliche. They'll say they're hurting, perhaps, or that they're lonely. I'll reach out to these people. Not with romantic overtures, but a few kind and supportive words. I'll tell them I'm sorry for the loss, how it must be so hard right now, and I admire their candor and their courage. I might wish them well in a certain way. Or also put in a compliment so long as it's sincere. And you know what happens? Not once--it's never occurred--has one of these people written and said, "thanks." Any form of that. I'm not writing them for that reason. I'm not writing them for us to be anything. Or to get anything from them. It's telling though, isn't it? That's how people are now.


* Is it wrong that I think every last person who writes "should of" is trash?


* I am offended when people don't educate themselves. When people choose stupid. You can un-stupid yourself to real degrees. Find and read good books. Read up on a subject. Put a little effort into trying and learning and getting better at thinking. Find new perspectives to consider.


* There were around seventy pitches combined in the first inning of the Red Sox game last night for two combined runs. It must have taken an hour. Unwatchable. The Red Sox fade is officially on. .500 team when it's all done.


* It's so obvious what many athletes are doing right now. Say a phrase like "undercurrents of racism," and you shift all blame, all responsibility, you get to be a victim, you need not make any cogent argument, have any interest in the truth, and you get to villainize and win in the easiest way possible. There's no burden of proof, correctness, sanity, reality, good faith, or justice. You get to win every time by saying a few words and you know it. You know the words. Say them, win. It is such a cowardly move. But then this behavior is enabled, in part because various outlets use it to drive their narratives and clicks, and also in part because everyone else is terrified. It's ultimately a way of having real justice, real truth, real reality, by the balls. And twisting when the mood strikes. On a whim. To deflect. For power. For money. For attention. For the brand. So many reasons.


* The only person who could combat any of this is not a liberal and they're not a conservative. You'd have to be neither. You'd have to be a humanist. Full-on humanist. And smart enough, brave enough, quick-thinking enough, articulate enough, real enough.


* I thought that last Downtown interview was pretty bad while I was doing it, but I listened to it some time after, and it was awesome. I think my feeling stems from the truth that there's no point to me doing these. It does nothing for me. Doesn't bring people to my work, my books, this site. Doesn't get me radio jobs. Who is it for? What is it for? I just give amazing content, for what? The more amazing content I give, the more upsetting it is. That's a theme here. I mean, look. Fiction in Harper's three years ago at this time. For me, that was a regular old story. Written in an hour. It was awesome. You won't find a better story in the world. Ever. But these 270+ stories are all as good. Or put it this way. There are some I could touch up. I've been going back and doing some of that when I know I needed to. For instance, "Pillow Drift." I wrote that whenever I first wrote it--two years ago at least I bet. I re-did it this spring. Now it's completely done. Even "Fitty" was redone last fall after being composed in summer 2019. But conservatively, how many of those stories, right now, without me revisiting them--and many are done-done, and I know there's nothing to touch up--are as good as that Harper's story? 250? 200? 150? It's not less. And it's a lot closer to 270 than 150. And I can't give a single one away even for free, because of this completely fucked, twisted, hellish situation I am in and the dystopia of all dystopia in modern society that is the current day publishing industry. But it's not like "Oh yeah, bitches! Here's the one masterpiece I had in Harper's!" I do that story every day. Or more. But different every time. Different form, different style, different shape, voice, tone, but always the same quality. I do Downtown at this point for later. By which I mean, for people to have all of these interviews with this artist to pour over, study, write their dissertations on, quote for biographies. But it's all for the future. There's no point in doing it now. Does nothing now. Obviously I like Kimball a lot. That's not what I'm talking about. There's just no present-day utility right now for me doing these. Having said that, this thing where I am on for a half hour is better than when I was on for twenty minutes. If you think about the history of great artists, there's really nothing comparable to this body of interview work I've built up. Add up the interviews that John Lennon gave, or Orson Welles, and there really weren't that many. Then there is the range of the material, the subjects, the ideas. Think of all of the "pull quotes" on life, art, writing, endurance, personal conduct, from these interviews. That's why I do it--all of that, for later, when this finally changes. If it does. You could make your life's work studying those Downtown interviews. I'm conscious of that as I do them. It's not like "Hey, it's Colin chitchatting with Rich." I have to get mp3 files of all of the segments at some point. It's on my daunting, overwhelming to-do list.


* I wish someone would interest me.


* I should finish an essay now, and revise two others. Then get ready to start another on the Beatles and do this John Coltrane/JazzTimes feature.


***


* It's a little bit later. Still morning. I have not exercised at all. I must force myself to get out.


* Listened to the Dead's Aoxomoxoa from 1969. I don't know how they went from that to Workingman's Dead and American Beauty the next year. There's no progression. Nothing to suggest that shift. That newness.


* I worked on the horror essay some more. Has no title yet. Put up an excerpt on here.


* Spoke to a friend whose daughter has been diagnosed with scoliosis and will have to wear a brace for at least twenty months and then perhaps have surgery. She's a smart, sensitive child. I would say very sensitive. Which can happen when one is quite bright. She's had some hard times handling certain things emotionally. So I tried to be supportive there. I had a babysitter as a kid with the same ailment to what seemed a comparable degree, and she was fine. The brace wasn't needed after a while.


* I wrote a short story called "Farm Free." It's about two farmers who are dead. And trust and their crop (one plants stones, another skulls of rodents) and the sometimes blob-ular nature of pain, and their relational aspect/comportment of one-up-manship. Excellent. Unique. So, four full short stories this summer.


* Also came up with another idea for a story. Because of course you did.


***


* I don't know what stands out more to me with Suffolk County DA Rachel Rollins. Whether it's her anger issues. This person is consumed with rage. She obviously needs help to get that anger under control. Or her obvious racism. This woman hates white people. I don't see how you could watch anything she does and not have these basic takeaways. There's no deduction involved, no canny perception. She is out of control with the anger and the racism. Blinding anger. Mind-warping anger. Sanity-vitiating anger. But, racism plays in Massachusetts, if it's the right racism, as it often plays in the media. Her racism will not be her downfall. But this is someone who, at some point, will have their career ended because of that anger. It's dramatic. Hubris and anger will eventually get you. It's full-on wrath and rage. It's more than anger. Like when she lost it on that woman last year on Christmas Eve in a traffic incident. She got of her car, started threatening the other woman with the power of her job, waving her finger in the air and pointing at this other driver. Look at the stills from the incident. She looks like she's so enraged she's seriously about to have a heart attack. It's Christmas Eve. You have a job you don't deserve. Lots of money. Lots of power. Go home. That anger will kill her career at some point. It's not a career she should have. She tried to lighten the sentences, too, for her criminal family members. It really is amazing what people do and what they get away with in plain sight. Then, other people may be hated and discriminated against because of their goodness and greatness. Anger can turn you insane. I almost wonder if anger can produce CTE. What it actually does to your head.


* Walked three miles. Not very good, obviously. But sometimes you just need to get started with again after a few days with something at least.


***


* Later again. Pitched a Lee Morgan idea to JazzTimes and The Wall Street Journal. Went nowhere.


* Sent out the new travel op-ed to a place I'm forgetting right now. They have some ex-American Interest people there. Also, the LA Times and The Washington Post.


* Sent "The Summer Friend" to Sy Safransky at The Sun. This guy. Wait until I do the post for The Sun on here. Twenty-five years of...I won't go into it right now. Not worth spilling a few of the beans when the fusillade will be that much greater with all of the beans at once.


* Revised the Three Investigators essay. It is sterling and vital. Sent it to two people at The New Yorker, Harper's, The Atlantic, Salon, Salmagundi. Here's another excerpt. How good is this?


But the unmasking of the latest baddie—and sometimes you were disappointed in who it was, as if they’d personally let you down, based upon other qualities they’d shown—wasn’t the real plot. The real plot, as I read these books, felt them, experienced them, and as I remember them, was in the relational. How characters interacted, how they served as mirrors unto each other. “Hanging out”—which, let’s be honest, is why everyone loves the duo of 221B so much—was the story because it doubles as the human drama. The textured richness that made “mere” plot something humanly reticular.


The ways in which we interact with each other tell stories. They tell, in my view, the most compelling stories which also impel us to revisit them the way one does an important exchange in the mind and memory. You can return again and again to a Three Investigators novel, in the same way you can with The Wizard of Oz, that first Star Wars film, or those Thoreau journals I mentioned. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Think of that novella—you want, in all likelihood, for all of this tsk-tsk business to work out well for Scrooge, but what is pulling you in is how he interacts with the ghosts, and the shadows of his own life. It’s the relational. Not the plot, which is, at the same time, a humdinger, but the plot is in service to the relational.


I don’t think you could have taught me a bigger lesson about writing, voice, tone, connectivity between author and reader, and life than you could have by saying, “Here, young Colin, why don’t you check out this Three Investigators series?” There are no references to pop culture, so that the characters exist in this kind of Perpetualland, which I imagine as a less denial-based realm than J.M. Barrie’s Neverland.


There are no cell phones, of course, no internet, but the boys do engineer what they call the Ghost-to-Ghost-Hookup, in which each member phones a few friends asking for info, and then request that those friends phone a group, and so on, until hot clues come rolling into Headquarters. They have a rival in Skinner (“Skinny”) Norris, who is jealous of the boys’ talent and enterprising spirit. He’s a rich kid, with his own set of flashy wheels. The boys themselves bum rides with Hans and Konrad, the two large-bodied Bavarian young men who work at the salvage yard, though they sometimes have their own Rolls Royce, complete with dapper chauffeur—a young guy himself—in Worthington, on account of Jupe winning a contest prize.


Robert Arthur wrote the first nine books in the series, as well the eleventh, with William Arden stepping in for a baker’s dozen worth of entries. In all, there are forty-three titles in the original run that was then followed-up by a shorter series in which the boys are older, and Bob, of all people, is this sublime romancer of the ladies. Jupe, alas, can’t catch a break or land a date.


My favorite Three Investigators author is M.V. Carey, the initials standing for Mary Virginia. Born in 1925, she stepped into the series in 1971 with The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints. Her books lean harder on the horror, and she nails the tone, the rapport of these three friends. They’re each so different from each other, but in those differences they locate strength, sublimate insecurity. There’s no envy for what the others can do for each of them—only opportunity to learn and grow.


I think probably the best book of all of the forty-three is 1975’s The Mystery of the Invisible Dog, written by Carey. It possesses that degree of re-readability. The story unfolds over the Christmas break, after the holiday itself is done, and I’ve never known a work of fiction to capture that interregnum feeling—the in-between time—of human life like this one.


For me, it was a work that helped instill early on that the shifts in life are never official, or at least rarely so. For life itself is lived in lacunae; gaps are, paradoxically, the substrate, and less the open spaces we think they are. The boys are bored, school hasn’t started up yet, the euphoria of Christmas has passed, but wreaths and decorations still hang, lights continue to twinkle. That mood of time and place in which setting becomes a character, infiltrates your readerly being. The book might as well open up and pull you in.


I’d stay up deep into the night reading these works, bargaining with myself to consume just another chapter, and before I knew it it was two in the morning. Or whatever it was. There was no time. That sensation is what a writer wants—that’s what you’re going for.


I read—or, rather, now I glance at—so much MFA-machined fiction drivel. Work that has no point to it, no guiding purpose, no connective tissue. I see fiction written as an exercise for the author to tell him or herself that this is their “thing,” what makes them special, gives them identity. But there is no value for the reader. There’s no concern for the reader, that wondrous entity I call “the person on the other side of the table.” The real writer exists only for that person. That person is everything. That person is the entire point. Not the writer’s ego, not so the writer can feel “oh look at me, ma, I’m good at something.” The writer is in service to that person on the other side of the table, because the writer does not exist if they are not writing to reach that person. To include them. Not to talk down to them, to leave them behind, or as is so often the case, to use as a prop in order to show off, let loose the jargon, all but say, “You’re not as smart as I am.”


The Three Investigators book helped me realize that if you actually want to prove your intelligence, then move someone at the level of who they are with a story you created that they feel is also their own. That’s it. That’s also everything.