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Sunday and another round of the Week Game

Monday 11/4/19

People often advise a course of moderation. In all things. I find moderation can be debilitating. One ought to strive for balance instead. Balance is very different than moderation. The latter suggests a certain ineffectuality. Not going as hard, as fully, as deeply, as one can.


We are more centered around poles than ever before, which is to say, further apart, disconnected, at the edges of unstable extremes.


I mention this because it seems that everyone--I'm exaggerating, but a great many people, certainly--are either "all white men are bad, anyone white is institutionally racist, kill the cops," etc., or else they're talking in misquoted Bible verses and they wish their lawns could morph into hell fires to frighten the wayward.


Again, a degree of hyperbole, but moderation is not the answer. Balance is. For instance: I am a balanced writer and artist. There is a balance with fiction, nonfiction, forms of fiction, forms of nonfiction, etc. Everything is maxed out with truth. See? The balance fosters that.


As for every white person being racist and privilege and all of that: it's not race or gender that accounts for the most destructive form of discrimination in our age. The number one thing that we discriminate against, right now, is intelligence.


People are more insecure than ever, they are more ignorant than ever, they are angrier than ever, they have more self-loathing than ever, they have more secret shame for their quiescence than ever--which they try to mask by their performances--and it is almost all performative--on social media; they are lazier than ever, and what intelligence can do is make them question themselves even more than they already are questioning themselves.


People hate that. Productivity is also discriminated against, hard work. But nothing more than intelligence. The evil kicks in another gear in with the reality that this discrimination is countenanced, is a'ok, because it's not on the official, Woke list of "this bad, that bad, this bad, that." We only have the accepted types and tropes. We think that simply. But we can try to hold someone back, we can lash out against them, we can incite the mob, and that's all hunky-dory, because we are discriminating against them for their mental acumen, not their skin color, their gender.


Just a thought.


Yesterday marked 1260 days without a drink. I went to Museum of Fine Arts and once more toured the new Ancient Nubia exhibit. I walked ten miles. I climbed the Bunker Hill Monument five times. I got birthday cards for my sister and nephew. At Trader Joe's, a woman said to me (I was carrying a book), "You don't see many men with books." As John said, "Just what you wanted to hear, right?"


I went to the CVS on Newbury Street to get a flu shot. The pharmacy portion is underground. There's never many people down there. There was a beautiful woman--I would say about thirty-two; six foot tall, and she was there for a shot as well. She kept smiling at me. Wasn't married. We were waiting a while because the computer kept freezing, and she was someone I could have said something to--and there's your meet cute story, as they say--but I didn't.


I don't know why. I have no good reason. She smiled at me repeatedly, and I wasn't really looking at her. But any time I looked her way, she was looking back. The pharmacist was around her age, too, really good looking guy, awkward, sort of goofy, nervous, complete lack of pretense or pose. I liked him. That was the kind of person I could be friends with. Not because of the awkwardness. I'm not on the hunt for awkward people. The sincerity. Anyway, I resolved, albeit after she left, feeling like I had squandered an opportunity, that if I saw this woman--Elizabeth (the pharmacist called us both by our names)--again on my walk, like at the bookstore further up the street, I would say something. But I didn't. I erred. That was dumb. I am not happy with myself.


I did buy Emma a pair of gloves, because that seems like the kind of thing she would not have. I've never seen her wearing gloves, anyway. Her school is further away now--in Dorchester--and not down the road in the North End like before. I can't reach her. There are things going on with her that are not great, and I am honestly not sure if anyone else has a clue, obvious though these things are. On Friday at school she got dizzy, went to the nurse's office, and slept for two hours at school. Then she came home and went to bed before eight.


She sleeps a lot. During the summer, when she was here and part of her family was in Rhode Island, she'd sleep seventeen hours a day. It's obviously depression, but it's more. She speaks in vague phrases to me--via text--about never having been in a position like this before, never having felt this way, being unable to shower, etc.


We don't talk, we don't hang out. It's been over two months. I have some other ideas about what is up with that, but this is not the format for the airing of them. Not now, anyway. So I try to do little things. I leave healthy food for her like fruit outside her door, I bought her the gloves. I don't even see her to give her something like the gloves. I think she is settling in for a number of very hard decades, if various things are not sorted out right now, and that makes me very sad. But I can't really do a lot right now, or much of anything.


And now to the Week Game.


Here is last week's Downtown appearance, in which I discussed overlooked horror films that are either great, or at least very good. I sold a short story to Salmagundi called "Read the Ice." I look at these things as money, but if you were someone who wished to move short stories, Salmagundi would mean much to you. They publish only four stories a year. Ann Beattie has the story in the current issue.


"Read the Ice" is one of twenty-two stories I wrote over the last four weeks. Unreal. Save that it happened. Certainly historically unprecedented, if we're even just talking twenty-two garbage works, let alone masterpieces, and as I have said--which I can, because the work axiomatically backs it up--I will pit any one of these works against anything anyone else has ever written. Period. Every last one. Fiction rumble. I'll pit them all day, all night long.


Prior to two weeks ago, I had never composed more than five stories in a week, back in the Dark March/Anglerfish Comedy Troupe days of 2012. And that was insane, the five. But my last four weeks, the breakdown has been: 4, 5, 6, 7.


Which means, in this round of the week game, seven works of fiction were composed. Here's the rundown:


"The Brittle Star"--animal story, post-humans, with the possibility of humans coming again; there is a trangressive otter


"Parquet"--ballet ghost story, narrated by a retired teacher


"Rodin"--story about a black high school boy, a basketball player, fisting a white girl at her father's home, who is also his dad's new boss; an inversion of how we consider sexual assault and power dynamics


"The Skink"--feminist sexual monster story, involving a girl who hears a half lizard, half snake, when under her covers and how she protects her sister


"Bouchards"--one of my two favorites here, it's seemingly about nothing more than a ten-year-old boy asked to play street hockey by two older neighbor brothers, but it takes places in the past, the present, the future, and it contains worlds--it's shocking, really, how this 1000 word story opens up--and the final four paragraphs will fell anyone; I can't read it without crying when I get to those paragraphs


"The Day Louis Armstrong Lost His Color"--it's 1935, and Louis Armstrong, who is with the woman who is to become his third wife, Alpha Smith, awakens to see that he has lost his color; the words "black" and "white" are never mentioned, but he looks somewhat like the English actor Colin Clive, who played Doctor Frankenstein in Bride of Frankenstein, which was all of the rage at the time; Armstrong has a prestigious gig that night at Carnegie Hall, where African American musicians rarely played at the time


"Car Limbs"--my other favorite here, again the past, present, future, seemingly about nothing more than a woman describing riding in the backseat, at night, with her parents up front, which becomes so much--a universe--more


On Friday I composed another Wall Street Journal op-ed. One ran today, I believe, which was not the one I expected to see next, so I hope we're good to go with everything, as I need the money. This one was really good and I want people to see it.


I climbed the Bunker Hill Monument seventeen times. I wrote seventy-five people who hate me, who will not respond, because this is what I do, I have weeks like this, again, again, again, again, again, and rather than say, "Good Lord, let's get behind this guy," they think, "I hate him even more now, I'll show him."


I published this JazzTimes piece on scary jazz cuts.


I published this American Interest feature on a radio program from eighty years ago with resonance for our current age, and insight.


I went to two films at the Brattle--Hitchcock's Lifeboat and Halloween III--and I walked twenty miles. I did quite a few blogs. Someone invited me on their podcast to discuss Billie Holiday, which I will do tomorrow, after I discuss the mutability of, and the misconceptions regarding, age and time on Downtown.


All perfectly normal. By all means, that person should be suppressed by an industry.


But, we will keep going. Keep fighting. The day will eventually arrive.


Enjoy some BRMC to start the week.