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Sunday wrap-up

Sunday 8/30/20

Walked ten miles yesterday, which was less than I was supposed to do. Just wrote a short story called "Straight Up Steals." It's about the Marathon bombings and Jackie Robinson. Another one for Longer on the Inside: Very Short Fictions of Infinitely Human Lives.

My sister sent me a video of my four-year-old niece trying to pick out the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" on her brother's guitar. They were in my late sister Kerrin's room listening to a CD of hers. Kerrin had excellent taste in music. That made me miss her a lot this morning.

I like how my sister Kara talks to her kids. I think my mom probably talked to me that way when I was little. Like you're a kid but you're respected and your thoughts are valuable, worth hearing. You offer something to the conversation, too. Beyond your growth or your growing up. It's not just about rearing you but hearing what you have to say.

I don't know if I put this up earlier. It's a feature for JazzTimes on Charlie Parker and what I think is the most significant recording session in American music history. This is a feature for The American Interest on a night when Parker played with the trumpeter Fats Navarro, who died shortly after. More than that, it's about the locus of true genius--it's not really what you do, it's how you are. By being you, the work is created, will always be created. Is created in times that others won't look at as "official times." Simply comes out. Is. This is an op-ed, also on Parker, that ran in The Wall Street Journal yesterday. Here's the Downtown radio segment from Tuesday, when we talked about various works of August art, ranging from Parker, to a Beatles concert in Houston in 1965, to a short story by W.F. Harvey called "August Heat," and my own short story, "August Autumn."

There were a mess of other stories lately. "Our Lightning." I began two that will also be longer like "Rehearsal Visit" and "Green Glass Door" called "Mount Edifice"--a story about race unlike anything anyone would or can produce right now. Talk about the ultimate driver, one should see the concept for this work. And a story somewhat about a rat named Simon. The other night--Friday night, I think--I worked on a story about an imp as I slept.

The WSJ piece makes the comparison of Parker to Mozart. Jazz musicians don't normally write as a classical composer does--they more slanted to performance, than composition. Someone piped up on Twitter that I had it all wrong. Right. Of course I did. They said that Parker was Bach, Miles Davis was Mozart, and Coltrane was Beethoven. I was talking to someone about this after. They theorized that everyone just says whatever now out of insecurity. They're on to something, but I think it's more, though people are certainly insecure; you have to pass through several million people to truly find someone secure in themselves. I can gauge fear, weakness, and lack of self-esteem in the space of a clause, or just how someone interacts with me. I know instantly. And I will waste no time nor energy in such interactions. Not right now, as I am here in the most challenging part of this hell yet.

But as for the comparison: Parker and Mozart were mercurial and cometary. The former died at thirty-four, the latter at thirty-five. They were cutaways, both. Eternally young of spirit. Who this person assuredly meant by Bach was J.S. Bach. That Bach was the greatest of all composers. Duke Ellington is the best writer of all jazz musicians. That's not especially close. Ellington and Bach obviously pair together. Parker wasn't a writer in one sense--he was a re-writer, a collage artist. He built new songs off of old ones. A kind of writing, certainly; but not wellspring writing. Ironically, Bach's son, C.P.E. Bach, has much more in common with Parker, but I guarantee this person had never heard of C.P.E. Bach.

Regarding the insecurity issue and why people just rip things from their ass, I responded with this to my conversation partner:

"It's a disconnection thing, what you get with the internet age. There's no reality. It's a post-reality world. Also: no one knows anything. Subsequently, anyone can say anything and there's no accountability or anyone to call BS. It's why people with knowledge are hated. They spoil the party of ignorance and bullshit and pretending you're things you're not. Which is something I need to overcome and reverse--at least pertains to me. I get this kind of thing a lot. With Beatles stuff, hockey stuff, what have you. And it still blows my mind, though I understand these reasons are real. I was always smarter than people, and I could have been wrong about something, but I never just talked out of my ass. What people desire and seemingly need, desperately, or they will implode upon themselves, is for you to not know they are full of shit. That's vital to them. Truth is, I don't know anyone this guy could have said this composer thing to and they'd think, whoa, wait, that's not true. They'd think they didn't know. Most other people--your garden variety idiot--would go, 'wow, that's brilliant, dude.' Then say something stupid of their own, sourced from the lower depths of their ass. A legitimate expert--and there are hardly any at all; people say, "that's a football expert," "that's a public policy expert," but they're not; it's just that someone must be labeled with the term--is despised. So what if you have one person who is the leading expert on so many different thing that ostensibly bear no relation to each other? Because to anyone with an open mind paying attention, that's clearly what I am. Am I just fucked? It's not just being an expert, it's this mega-conglomeration expert, which seems like the very worst thing one can be in this world. Thus I die in poverty and anonymity, feared, hated, cast out, and with the rest of everyone else not even being able to begin to understand that such a human is possible? And hell, fiction is really what I do more than anything, which is beyond the expert stuff. The people who like me all have one thing in common, as diverse as they are from various walks of life (not that many people like me at all): they are perfectly comfortable with who they are. That we are not the same species, in a way, mentally, does not threaten them. They admire what I can do, understand they could never do it, and they want it to reach and impact the world. But those are rare, rare, rare people. You need to get the other people who are not that way at all, and I don't know how to do it yet. More than being blacklisted and loathed by an entire industry, this is my largest problem. Thoreau calls it the problem of absolute greatness. And I don't know what to do, and I am barely hanging on."

I often hear that the point of life is to have fun. An aim in life is to have fun. Which is different. The point of life, I believe, is to be as fully human as possible, to understand what that means as one grows deeper and with greater clarity into one's humanity, while helping others do so as well, in whatever form that takes, or forms. When we do that, we come to know a power, a truth, a beauty, beyond our humanity, or where our humanity, as we have known it, was situated at earlier stages. And we keep going. We search and discover and fight to search and discover until the last. We take people with us as we go, we render ourselves open and vulnerable so that we may go with them as well. I think that's the point.

I read on a dating site today that notes that compliment someone's hair are eighty-four percent more likely to get a response.


I think the guy was right about Coltrane and Beethoven. Fiery creators, who took what was a populist form of entertainment and insisted on being termed artists. Prior to Beethoven, you wouldn't see a classical composer refer to himself as an artist, which Beethoven did a lot in his letters, where he'd largely insist that the world owed him endless treasures, because he gave more to the world than anyone could. Fiery and spiritual. Coltrane had a bit of that in him, too.

This is Ralph Coburn's “Folly Cove 7: Sketch 4,” 1980, acrylic on paper. Which is at the Cape Ann Museum. I've just always really liked it. A reminder on a day like this when I have really struggled to remain alive to keep fighting, somehow, this week, to keep trying to get back to Rockport.


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