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Speaking of starts

Thursday 9/14/23

It's late--after two in the morning. I was going to bed a few hours ago, when a friend called at the start of a long drive. They've lost themselves. Been overwhelmed for a couple years now with depression. They don't confide in anyone, and the state of affairs is getting worse. No energy. Lots of sleep. Ineffectiveness that has become rampant and costly in their life.

I had been planning on saying a few things, because there has to be change. I didn't know how receptive they'd be to things that it's maybe time to do or try.

I know that people also look to me as a model--this person has said that to me many times. "If I could do 1/1000th of what you do, that would make all of the difference." But at the same time, how someone views me may paradoxically create more problems. They might feel guilty knowing how much easier they have it and yet here I am, every day, finding some way to keep going through it all.

And after all, no one is going through anything like this. What this is doesn't otherwise exist. You can't be more alone, more despised, feared, envied, have more against you. Each day will be the same. I know that before it starts. More of the hell. So, if Colin can do what he does with that going on, I can do what I need to do in my situation.

But it's not that simple. I get up at four and get after it. Or, I am up here at two, still getting after it. I run the stairs. There is no drink, no drugs. There is no medication. There is no support. There's hate, fear. There isn't kindness and love and touch in my life. Comfort.

There's awe, too, but it tends to be paralyzing. People think, "What could I possibly say to this man?" like it couldn't be good enough. They're used to bullshitting anyway. Lies, compliments they don't mean. Won't work here. It's not appropriate. Won't fly. Not because of anything I've said. They just know that's true because of what they see or what they've just read. The only choice is to be real, to try to find the words. And that's so very hard for people. They are never that way in life. So they say nothing. But as they think and feel so much.

On my side there is strength, drive, will, faith. In otherworldly quantities. It's fine for someone else to say that they're going to get up and do this, snap out of whatever they're going through, work out like some Marine, but that's not realistically going to happen all of a sudden and then keep happening with day in, day out sustain. As I've said: Anyone can start. But sticking with anything is different. The initial "Yeah, let's do this!" wears off fast. That won't take you far. Other things need to be done to support beginning to do a version of what I just described. And that's what we talked about. After we got off the phone I did some looking around and found some phone numbers.

Then I couldn't sleep, and for some reason I started going through the archives of The Boston Phoenix--which became The Phoenix--to see if what I did for them was online. And when I did it. I knew these archives were out there, but I had never checked them out. I want to do an entry on here about The Phoenix and the people who were there, because it was a horrible experience. I have my in-person experiences, yes, and I know what those are with perfect recall--word for word--and I have the emails, but it's useful to know what work of mine is out there. It's not even really about the work, something like this. I only like to proceed from a place of total certainty about everything. So I saw pieces on things like Abstract Expressionism and architecture. This was early in my career. I was always writing about everything. Not as much over these last dozen years or so, but there was plenty on everything from the start.

And for whatever reason that caused me to look up some things on Google. Names, say. Just the names, nothing else, to see how high up on Google entries pertaining to those names in this record came up. I don't really do these little Google experiments. I know that with most people, their name is going right to the top of the Google search after they've been exposed on here. They haven't done very much, and they're not going to. What someone sees about them will be what is here.

As I mentioned recently, though, when I have looked up songs, records, films, books, for other reasons, I'm seeing entries from this journal above high circulation magazines, newspapers, websites. Institutional type places that have been around forever.

So I typed in a couple "bigger" names, and sure enough, entries from here were right at the top above just about everything else. Above things pertaining to, or by, those people, in The New Yorker, The Atlantic. And with places like that sometimes having a five, ten year head start on and all of that additional time to "soak."

Why don't I check on this kind of thing more often? It's not a good use of my energy. In one way this is pretty simple: I have faith that if I do what I do and do my best, and I keep at it, and I don't give in, and I don't give up, and I fight, and I keep making the best art ever, every day, this is going to work out as it should work out. And, with that, everyone who should be held accountable will be held accountable. I'll know when it has worked out. Everyone will. I don't need to check on things like this regularly in the meanwhile. The results are going to be there in the end, which is also going to be my true start.

Now I'm working on this revised version of the story "Net Drive," which I should have gotten back to this editor a long time ago. The story has changed a lot in one way--certain textual ways--but also not really in a larger sense. But specific textual matters, of course, have a significant bearing on that larger sense. This story will be in No Mercy When We Get There: Stories to Wreck You. As one can see, I'm moving around from book to book to book to book, and on and on, and often in the same day. The books have nothing to do with each other and it beggars belief that the same person could have written any two of them, let alone all of them. This is what I've been doing, though. The Solution is the most beautiful, human, humane, loving--and, of course, joyous--book one can imagine, a timeless book for adults and children and everyone in between; Become Your Own Superhero oversteps so many lines, some would say it goes too far, it's vulgar, wrong, twisted--but it's also beautiful. Necessary, radical, innovative, at complete odds with all of the fiction being written right now and for a long time now. Really ever. But it's such a gloriously jarring contrast with all of the fiction being produced in the world at present. And that's just to provide the example of two contrasting books.

As I've alluded, I have also written a book by accident. I haven't gone into what that is yet. I know people will read this and they hate me because they see what is done every day--and every day before they get up--and they'll hate me more because I wrote a book by accident, when they have struggled to write so much as a single sentence in three years, and these people, when they have the opportunity to say no to me, will do so because of that hate. But I will know it--I always know what's going on--and up they will go on here, with the full inculpatory case being made, complete with a comparison of what they are putting forward vs. what I have written. Along with everything else--why they put that other person forward, the nature of the relationship, the quid pro quo, etc. And it's often even worse than that, isn't it? But one thing it always is--well, two--is obvious and undeniable. No, make that three: and out there in the open for anyone to see. Or, one could simply not discriminate and go by the work. There's always that choice.

I talked about this story on here way back when I wrote it--with the earlier version--but "Net Drive" takes place within a single play in a boys' high school hockey game. The entire story--which is this complicated family drama, and a boy coming to grips with his sexuality--occurs within that one play in the big game against the prep school team that usually blows the doors off the narrator's team. But perhaps not this year.

And speaking of starts, here's how this story starts:

I’m ten feet outside the Prep blue line on the left wing about to receive a pass on my backhand from Aaron Steadman way over by the far side of the center ice circle. I skate faster than Aaron—I’m faster than everyone this season—so he has to hit me before I enter the offensive zone and put the play offside because no one’s getting there before I do. I’m having that kind of year because I’ve become that kind of player.

We never win against Prep, our would-be rivals if only our school beat them more than once every quarter of a century. My freshman year, sophomore year, junior year, they decimated us, which really means to divide by ten so that’s not literally true, but it isn’t that far off and mathematically it’s been worse. 12-4, 14-1, 8-2. But this year it’s locked up 4-4 late. They’ve probably doubled our shots on goal, but here we are, and here we go. Like an old coach of mine used to say when it got to be nut-cutting time: It only takes one, bitches.

Aaron’s pass must be made now, at this precise moment in this final period of this single game that counts for more than just a game, or the play dies, the rush dies, the chance doesn’t happen. The chance doesn’t get a chance.

You’re aware when that last rush has come, the final opportunity you’ll have. An opportunity you can believe in. The flow of a game, across dozens of games, thousands back to when you were four-years-old, teaches you. A new game is like music you haven’t heard before, but you can follow and anticipate the pattern of notes, their progression. The notes are fresh, but they still take you to a place you’ve already begun to imagine.

My dad yells louder from the stands now, because he views games as bonus time we get to spend together and he has to make it count, separated though we are in these moments, hence his added gusto, compensating for what he believes is his absence of control back in the rest of life.

He usually stands next to Mr. Patricio, an idiot whose kid skates on the fourth line, which means he gets a few shifts in blowouts, because we’ve shortened the bench this year, considering that there are actually things to play for.

“Hey, Ref! Nuts and bolts, we got screwed!” is typical of what Mr. Patricio yells, but it’s always my dad’s voice that finds me out of the din of overheated parents and kids in the bleachers flying high off of three cans of piss-water beer.

I’m only at my dad’s one weekend a month, and also before games because he likes to give me a pep talk, which he concludes by punching each of my shoulders, the left first, then the right, same order every time. Then we do a recap outside the locker room after the game, win or lose, as I’m still in my gear, sweating all over myself and the other guys hit the showers.

I feel like he’s talking to me with people listening in when he yells from the stands and we both know it, but that doesn’t change what he would say if it were just us.

“Dig deep, Teto,” he’ll shout from his post way up in the back row, which is non-hockey specific enough that I guess you could also count it as a kind of life advice.

I’ve been calling to Aaron for the puck. I don’t need to, but I do it because it’s part of being fully engaged.

“A.S! A.S!” I yell across to him, as I tap my stick on the ice, which makes the sound of the dull end of a pick on a cave wall.

My voice is staccato, rapid-fire, the voice of a baritone, not a tenor. There’s an echo, a deepening, down at ice level where everything is more real than real. It’s the same as when you pull your head underwater, except the water here is frozen beneath you, the metal blades of the skates like whips cutting into a chalkboard.

I’ve learned to savor the raking of the edges, the strafing sound of the perfect stride producing a spray of ice chips that seem so clean despite everyone spitting and dripping and blowing snot out of their noses throughout the game. There’s a purity to ice, like it understands itself.

Depending on who you are, these sounds—along with the rushing air—can be calming, but better keep your head swivel, which sounds like more life advice, only I’m giving it to me.

Good good good. Faith. And A to B.


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