Looked at my finger, and there were four slices in a row--from the back of the air conditioner unit. I feel like there is a metaphor in slices. You look at the skin after, and what you see seems so innocent, even ineffectual. Presumably ineffectual. But that was all it took to harm you. Not that this was harm--small injury, if that. But all the same, I think the point holds.
Word of warning--be careful with that squishable metal grating on the back of AC units. Isn't that a weird part of them? The metal gets bent, folds down, which would seem to indicate defective or breaking product, but it just kind of works that way. I've always found that strange. You see AC units hanging out of windows and there are those snail trails in the metal grill from where parts of it have been folded down. Shouldn't that not happen?
It is hard to keep going. A couple days ago I was talking to my sister about my workout shorts, if she knew how to sew, because they all had that big hole in them. It was a conversation one might have with someone and then you learn two days later that they are dead, you think about that conversation, how ordinary it was, a conversation a person has with someone who is going to be around for a while.
When I say "keep going," I mean that a number of ways. I could let go of my mind, all of the things that it has to keep in order, all of the uncountable pieces of information, where some line for some story is in a stack of a hundred pieces of paper, randomly written that is below a pile of something else somewhere else, and it would just be gone.
I was thinking this morning about how the people in my life--the people more theoretically on my side than an industry that views me as the devil--always make sure to deliberately screw with me.
For instance, I showed many people the cover of my upcoming book. That is something that, with anyone else, anyone else would comment on, right? But I knew, because this is how it always is here, is that not one person was going to say anything. Isn't that remarkable? It's always that way. We could be "friends"--though we are not really friends, because I don't actually have any friends, because friends don't treat friends this way--for twenty-five years, and I can send you this cover, and you won't say anything. And yes, that happened. With two different people, actually, with whom I go back to the 1990s.
In fact, if I send it along with something else, like how I got a new pair of workout shorts, that person will say, "that's great about the shorts," to make it even more passive aggressive and disturbing that they won't say anything about the cover. I accept this. I know it's deliberately done to hurt me. It's not coincidence. It happens a thousand times in a row. People get off on it, because they know it hurts me, and they know I'm doing things they are not doing, I live with purpose, and it's one of the ways they try and even the score. It's sick. The same thing goes if I place a book and tell people--there won't even be a token, "that's great." From family. From "friends." You name it. Sick sick sick. One might say it's paranoia, but it is a pattern with empirical results that has held for many years. It's right there. I'm not making it up. Does it sound absurd and not believable? Well, certainly the former, and probably the latter. But it is what happens. Virtually without fail. So what am I supposed to do? Pretend I imagined it? Lie that it doesn't happen?
What I would like, sometimes, more than anything, is to be treated like anyone else is treated, but I know that the less like anyone else you are, the less like everyone else you will be treated. Even in matters of basic dignity, the lowest levels of politeness and courtesy. I am very concerned because I am getting better every day. My range is expanding every day. What I can do is growing every day. And already, I don't think anyone has a clue what I do now, and what I am. It takes too much time and energy to realize all of the things that I am. It takes too much suspension of belief of what you think is possible. Someone might be sufficiently interested to invest some time and energy to see, because some people do do that, they get really into what seems to be a kind of phenomenon to them in human form, and they'll explore and maybe even get past a point of what they've seen or imagined anyone else could do. They'll be in those chart-free waters. What happens then is they'll look at the water around them, comment internally on how different those waters are, and having reached those waters, they'll stop. That's human nature. They won't go further. They won't think that maybe they're just getting started. How far does this extend? They won't think that way. They are already so far beyond what they previously knew or thought possible; it's like there's an automatic shut-off at that point. When in reality, you're just getting started with what I am. You barely went over your first hurdle, to mix aquatic and track metaphors.
You can't really fault them, because that's human nature, and you have expectations, and there's only so much, perhaps, you can believe is possible, and I am not merely unprecedented. That would be far easier. I might as well be from an alien world. Maybe I am and I don't know it yet. A remedy is that I get to where I am going. Because then there would the platform, and my voice. There is my voice now, but my voice is not amplified by the placement of that voice--in the cover stories, in the books about that person, in all of the articles, interviews, discussions, Facebook groups, what comes with the awards, the hype, the platform, the focus, and me speaking in settings where millions of people see or hear those words.
And it's not just the new people. Here's something I've learned. There are people out there right now, for one example, who love Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls. One person wrote me to say that they love Cape Cod, miss Cape Cod, can't go there this summer, but Buried is getting them through. I thought that was nice of them to say that to me. Buried isn't really about Cape Cod--I would never so something that limiting, which isn't to slight Cape Cod, this place I love so much. I'm from there. I'm from there in a literal sense in that I was born there, but I am also from there. Do you understand what I mean by that? I am a part of three places: Cape Cod, Rockport, and Boston. They are of me. That's why a goal--I don't want to call it a dream, because goals, to me, are things you make happen, and dreams are something you have, and I don't want to suggest to myself that I might not make my goals happen, which, in a way, are more than my goals, I feel like they're goals for the world and what the world needs, though the world has not told anyone yet--is to have three residences: this apartment cleaned up, as an urban office (and from which I can depart and still climb the Bunker Hill Monument when I am eight-five), my original house in Rockport, and a place on Cape Cod. All filled with my books, my films, my music, my memorabilia, posters, art, lots of nautical decor, fresh flowers, plenty of room to move about, and I don't even know anymore that I need anyone else, or will want anyone else, because I require someone brilliant and dynamic, smarter than the next five million people she'll meet, and with character, and I am not sure she exists. I tend to think she doesn't. It's almost a minor miracle when someone out of the thousands of people I meet can write a complete sentence and all of the words are spelled correctly and there are no "lol"'s for that ostensibly funny thing they tried to say which was not remotely funny.
I have written the definitive book of Cape Cod, which is about so much more than Cape Cod, which you don't have to know what Cape Cod is to love. But if you do like Cape Cod, it's going to press every last button of affection you have for the place, and buttons you didn't know you had. It is a book that can and should be to Cape Cod what Make Way for Ducklings is to Boston, albeit that's a children's book, but you know my meaning. It is the Cape Cod book. Should sell like hot cakes all the time there, flying out of every story--not primarily bookstores (because there are not that many of those anymore), but tourist places, specialty shows, breweries, knick-nack outlets, the place where you get towels and sunscreen. For years, for decades, for all-time. The official book of Cape Cod. And you know what? No Cape Codder, just about, has any clue this book exists, because no one has any clue it exists, because of the blackballing. I love the woman who is the editor of this press. She's smart, I respect her, we have a kind of friendship, I think, but the resources are not there. It's a small operation, that I come to because of what an industry has done to me. With me. And what happens is, I have an op-ed run in a place like The Wall Street Journal. And then, because the bio mentions Buried, and nothing else, 300 people buy the book. Because they liked the op-ed so much.
So imagine what would happen with a marketing budget, reviews, coverage, excerpts in magazines. You wouldn't just have a bestseller--you'd have a book that sold tons, year after year, because of the nature of the book, the summertime nature, the cottage industry unto itself it would be as a staple of this place and the shops of this place. Again, you don't need to live in Boston or like Boston to buy Make Way for Ducklings, and lots of people in LA bought it, and buy it, but it flies out of Boston shops, even though it's from a longtime ago, and it always will. I wrote a book that would fly out of more shops for some of those same reasons. But hardly anyone knows it exists. The Cape Cod Times--think about this--will not cover the book at all. The book by the guy who has been in, well, you name it. Rolling Stone, Harper's, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, USA Today, and on and on and on and on, who is from Cape Cod. I have reached out to them--various people in various sections--for some coverage, and not one person at the Cape Cod Times has written me back. How awful at your job do you need to be to not think, "hmmmm, we are the Cape Cod Times, and this is Cape Cod, this could be of interest to our reader?"
One of the things I pitched was an op-ed stemming from the book, about how Cape Cod is this unique setting for art, with how the flora and the fauna of this place, this hub, intertwines with the lives of those who live there, and those who pass through, informing their stories, their memories, their lives. You might get this in Alaska, but you don't get it, really, in hubs. They ignored that. They ignored the follow-up. Again, this is what you're dealing with. The books/culture person? She ignored everything, too. Review? Interview? Nah, better to ignore this guy. Your readers would be pleased and grateful to learn about this book they are otherwise not going to know about on their own, probably. There is even a news element--look, here's a book about us from someone of national and international repute! Total drunken incompetence. Almost everything, everywhere, is total drunken incompetence. But here's the point I began to make. That person who does read the book, right now, would see the book differently, if other things were in place. That's just human nature. You give someone Sgt. Pepper by this unknown band, and they hear it a different way, maybe, and they likely process it a different way, than if they know it's billed as this all-time masterpiece, and I promise you they will talk about it in a completely different way, if they talk about it with others at all. People won't "go there" as much on their own. But if the official word is that "this thing is this," they are going to be opened up in a different way such that they'll also let themselves think that, and then they are also more likely to refer to the work this way, spread the word, bang the drum.
This ridiculous free press in Concord with this guy whose name I forget who talked down to me a bunch of times while all but fellating Brian Evenson because he's a literary citizen whose cronies teach his boring books, gave me this copy of a book of short stories with a nautical theme. A couple years ago. It's in a stack of books in my bathroom. I almost always just throw it out. Then I think, well, maybe you'll learn a useful thing about a boat motor or something, and we'll use that later, but you know what? Even I would be more likely to look at this if I had read up on it, and it was billed as this remarkable long lost collection from 1956, that channels the power of the sea, or something, to illustrate the lives of various full-drawn fictional characters. It's just how we are. The difference with me is I can read or see or listen to something, and if it's the best thing ever, I know it. I'll say it. I'll say why. I have that level of ability and confidence. There's not a lot of outside interference in my world. My route to the truth is direct. I did skim some of this book, and it was just whatever. Humdrum. Not godawful, like a lot of MFA writing. It's just mediocre. Like if your uncle decided to write some tales of his maritime boyhood, I guess, and your uncle was kind of bookish. So I mostly still have it for that "maybe I'll learn something about a motor" reason.
I was speaking to someone last night, and we were talking about how you see these sports "experts" with 2.4 million Twitter followers, and they say the dumbest things, in the blandest ways. And they'll post something on Twitter, and 24k people will like it, and 5600 people will comment. Why? What is so interesting? They are saying nothing that, again, your uncle couldn't say at a cookout. They provide no insight, there's no humor, it's just nothing. Why do people love nothing? They can supply their own nothing.
And this person I was talking to just said, "Everything is simple, simple, simple. It's just people saying anything. First thing that comes to mind. Everything now is just people talking. There is no distinguishing any of it."
We were discussing how these sports media people with the platform had been tweeting out things like, "That Cam Newton hype video proves that he's QB1 for the New England Patriots."
How stupid do you have to be to think that? Your job is covering sports. Thinking about sports. And you think, after twenty years of being able to see what he does, that Bill Belichick is going to announce to the world who his starting quarterback is via a "hype" video? So you've not paid the smallest bit of attention for twenty years, or you are too dumb, or your memory is that faulty--it basically doesn't work at all--that you don't know that this isn't remotely how he works? You think Belichick said, "You know, I think it's time to tell the world who my starting QB is, and the way I'm going to do that is by making a hype video, bitches! Get the video team in here!!!! YEAH BABBBBBYYYYY!!!!"
The dude is as likely to be cut. Would you find it at all shocking, if you have a brain in your head, if a player the Patriots brought in for the minimum, who has a checkered career, really just one very good year--and I'd say it was an overrated year--and that player relies on his legs, he's getting older, and that player got cut before the season started? Would you really be like, "Oh, wow, what a great shocker, who ever could have imagined such a thing?" (Actually, what most people would do, is either say that they suspected this all along--which will be a lie--or that the Patriots are racist. Also, Boston and New England in general, but especially Boston. And the Patriots played to their racist base.)
Or would that be, like, pretty standard? Pretty standard, right, people with brains? Maybe he is the starter. But I can guarantee you they don't know that yet. Based off of what? The past? Because it'd have to be based off the past, yes? Does that sound like the Patriots to you? "Let's make a decision on what a guy did several years ago, at the most important position in all of North American sports." Yeah, that's totally Belichick. That's what he's doing. What they actually think, or entertain--and maybe they barely entertain it--is this guy could so some things before. We don't have to pay him much, because no one wants him. Let's bring him in, take a look. Maybe we have something. Further, we have this other guy, and maybe we expected more from him this off-season, and now we have more questions, so let's see how he reacts to competition. Maybe he rises up, maybe he falls back, maybe we cut his ass. Maybe Hoyer shows something."
Or something along those lines. Nobody is just given a job because they once won an MVP, not with this person in charge. It is about what you can do right now. When you don't play, they don't know what you can do right now. What you did in someone else's system, years ago, is not proof of what you can do in 2020 with a new team. But even if they thought he was the guy of guys, a hype video is not how they'd debrief the world. They might do that to sell some jerseys, and also to fuck with people, fuck with other teams, goose other players, like the guy who might take the starting job. And also because people are so fucking stupid that the Patriots can just do this kind of thing, then undercut it. "Look at us, you never know what is coming." And that, my friends, is a huge mental edge on your competition.
Now, any of these things are actually interesting. And none of these things are things that other people say. So, because they are interesting, because they are not moronic, does that mean that you couldn't have the platform, the likes, the retweets, the comments? I'm pretty worried about that, to be honest. I am scared because I worry that to have any success in this world, to get anywhere, you have to say stupid, obvious things, that anyone else could say, does say, the blandest, least memorable, most boring way possible. Skip Bayless? This is a dumb man. Shannon Sharpe is an even dumber man, when he tries to impress people with his vocabulary, and never has a clue what the words mean. Might want to try looking up "disavowal," before using it like a third grader high on cough syrup.
But you see this shit like, "You have to call the Patriots a contender now."
That's interesting? Why do 60k people find this interesting? A parrot could say that. Are we now people who are actually entertained by, and only entertained by, keys jiggling in front of our faces? Because this is the adult version of that, but not as good. Keys, I don't know, kind of jangle, which is nice, and they're shiny. Or maybe a mix of shiny and scuffed, and it's fun to say, "ooh, shiny! Ooh, scuffed!" This isn't even interesting stupid. Like, Shannon Sharpe can be interesting stupid, as you watch him obliterate the English language. But you don't really watch him do that, because most everyone else has no clue what any of the words mean either.
What I am saying is, you can say anything, and what you say is totally irrelevant. How you say it, whether it's dumb, smart, stupid, interesting. It's just irrelevant. What matters is who, I guess, it comes from. You can take 100 people, and you can have them all say, "Football is great," on Twitter. And one of those people will be paid several millions of dollars for doing that with their life. Why? And what is the appeal, when you just got the exact same word-for-word shit from ninety-nine other people? What are they giving you? What are their goods? What is the service? Where is the interest? Where is the entertainment?
I think the entertainment and the service is that this is as empty, as pointless, and as bad as it gets, and I think that's what people want. I think they want something completely empty and passive. I think they want something that is virtually nonexistent, that has no reality, identity, that is what an artist calls negative space. I think we want placeholders rather than things. Or, if we don't want it, we're more than willing to just accept that this is how it is now. And then it just becomes the lottery. "You get to have a platform, you get awards, you get millions of dollars." That's just given to some people, so there can be these "elites," but they no more deserve it than all of those who don't get, who also don't deserve it, because it's a fucking lottery. There is never a time now when it's "you got this, because you deserve you, you do and offer what others don't." No. It's "well, it has to be someone who is the MVP, so, eh, it can be you. Enjoy your easy life of reward."
And you see it more in publishing than anywhere else, of course. These people. It could be anyone else with their awards and their Yaddo and their Guggenheim and their Man Booker and their Pulitzer and their PEN/Hemingway and their BASS and their four stories in The New Yorker and it's its just these meaningless putz-piles. You really think that if this was all done again, if we ran the game of life again, that those same people are copping all of that same shit? Of course not. It was random. And the right agent, and the right time for their identity politics, and the right brother-in-law getting the right job to hook someone up, and absolutely none of it had anything to do with what they made. But it has to be somebody. It's a post-quality system. But you know what I've found? The way these people write, is in that same passive, negative space, there-is-nothing here way, along the lines of what that person above said with the talking heads, the elites, how it's all indistinguishable. It's indistinguishable because of what it all has in common: none of it is actually its own thing. And then you can just call it whatever the fuck you want to call it. You fill in the negative space with whatever bullshit you want to make up. And that is entirely your call. Because this thing you're talking about has no identity on its own. The thing isn't even a fucking thing.
You see it everywhere in society now, except in sports, because sports has to be talent-driven. Some of the arts are more talent-driven than others. Classical music, for instance. Of course stuff goes on, but you also have to be able to play. You can't fake your way through a career as a violinist if you can't play the violin at all. In publishing, you can fake your way to everything--dozens and dozens of the highest honors without having to have any ability to write whatsoever. That's how it actually works. People will cover for you, lie for you, build you up. Oh, it's Diane Williams, oh it's Lydia Davis, let's make up some recondite shit, rather than say, you know what, these people suck at writing, there is nothing here. The emperor isn't just nude in the street, the emperor is a porker as wide as the fucking street itself, and he's bending down to pick up an award, and his ass is opening as he bends, and we all see the hole, all mangy, but yeah, let's definitely not say that he's nude, we can't have this. What raiments he wears!
What is the point? How is this good for anyone but these people of these sick cliques? How is this good for the world? How does this entertain the world, if you don't want to make it about art? How does this help anyone to laugh, to have some fun, how does it enhance their leisure, how does it even give them something to do, before we get into the whole stuff about how does it help them to see themselves, how does it help them to grow, how does it help them to feel and be alive? How does it help them in their relationships, with their kids, with how they think, how they process the world, feel it, taste it, hear it, see it, understand it?
I'll give you a simple test. You'll find that everything in this life comes back to one thing: What is the point? There can be points to things that are quite small. What's the point of gum? Fresh breath. Helps with nerves. Maybe you're in a 1950s biker flick and you need to look cool for the teenybopper audience. Those are things that number among the points to gum. Even gum has points to it. If something has no point, it should not be celebrated, awarded, paid for with millions of dollars. Why would you ever do anything that has no point to it? Why would you honor something that has no point to it? Why would you make it? Why would you pay for it? Why would you follow it?
Keep going, man. Find a way. You can change all of this. Such is the stuff of your waters. Find a way to keep going.