Here is the aforementioned Washington Post piece on John Kennedy Toole. This is yesterday's Downtown segment on what I call guilty comforts in entertainment. It's a funny one, but poignant, ranging from Def Leppard to Conan Doyle to Alf to Mr. Belvedere to C.S. Forester to the Hardy Boys to an unfortunate encounter in the basement of my building concerning my KISS shirt, to my attempts to woo via gazpacho, to Christopher Cross, Family Guy, and Last Man Standing, via Skip James, Ned Martin, jazz, Moby-Dick, Proust, Schubert, the Beatles. I see David Sedaris, whom I don't think much of as a writer or a would-be funny person, touring the country, doing gigs at places like Symphony Hall here in Boston, just talking. Come on. I'm ready to sing--to talk--to the world, if you'll just give me the backing. If you can do that with his ability, I can obliterate what he has done.
Emma had a meet-and-greet at the art school she will likely be attending last night. She asked me to go. It's for the kids and their parents, so I didn't do that. I normally never give anyone unsolicited advice. If things get hairy, I will. I mean, I'm usually alone, trying to fight my way out of this hell. But as a rule, I won't tell you what you should do. Rather, what I think you should do. I feel that if you want my counsel, you can ask. Consequently, I note the marked contrast and how readily seemingly everyone else tells someone else what they should do. That's brazen to me. Or just ignorant. Narcissistic? Or that there's no sense of propriety. I even get it in the Monument. "You need to pace yourself." "You'll never make it to the top if you run." "It's harder than you think."
If you seek my counsel, I think it's true that my counsel will serve you well. My emotions, at this point, have no bearing on how I cogitate. I've had to become that way as I try to get out of the hell. Anything I say here, for instance, I say for a purpose. Anything in an email, i say for a purpose, such that if the person--or people--I'm sharing it with elect to betray me, and some news agency wants to put my email out in front of the public, I have composed that email in such a way that in this eventuality, it can help my cause. I haven't always been this way. But certainly for a while now. If you think something here is a reference to something else, or there's a secondary or tertiary meaning, there is. There are no coincidences. I have to be cognition itself in order to beat what I am up against and save myself and get to where I am going. My feelings and my emotions never encroach upon my actions and my thinking at this juncture, no matter how deep the pain, how terrifying the absence of hope is. That's where my mental discipline has taken me, where it has had to take me. I hope--irony--it pays off. By being a factor in getting me out of this.
I see people in ways that they don't see themselves. For various reasons. I perceive and apperceive as others do not, with a different level of limpidity. At any point, I could offer insight or counsel on all kinds of faulty thinking and limiting behavior and choices, but I don't. It's not my place. The people will get by. Change is hard. You have to want it, you have to be brave enough to face things. You have to absorb, before you can extend. So I pick a lot of my battles with the people I've known (back when I talked to anyone; I am entirely alone now); which means, I rarely say anything. But everyone will say "you need to blah blah blah" to me. When it's stuff well out of their depth. And they don't think that what they might be saying is going to be antithetical to what someone else will say to me five minutes later. Everyone, in a sense, thinks they are the last word; but when pressed, anyone--well, anyone who's not a hot-head and has an idea of their limitations--would grant that, no, they are probably not. But you don't have those secondary conversations, do you? We don't get that far. If someone tries to have that level of dialogue with us, we get stressed, this is not "chill," we duck out.
But this is a little different with Emma, and I'm having to force myself to nudge a bit. Because I think it's best, and I think it's what she wants, and it's kind of how our relationship is set up, though not strictly limited to--because I like seeing her happy, and I like her jokes, and I like seeing her passion when she tells me about this girl she was in love with for two years, and she surprises me. Do you know how rarely a person surprises me? But, ultimately, she views me as her mentor, as does, I think, her mother. I am trying to get her--Emma, that is--to see that she needs no mentor, that people who think in terms of mentors don't get to where they might need to be. You are your mentor. If you're truly talented. It's just you. You mentor you. And I don't like that verb. But only you can really do it for you. Which isn't to say that someone can't be instructive along the way.
She's had her issues and her anxiety and despite the good intentions of a goodly amount of people, she feels no one has helped her, loving child though she is. People have, of course, helped her. But she means intellectually, and with direction in terms of someone understanding how she thinks, what she can do to get better at the things she wants to get better at--thinking, writing, art. And also understanding who she is. Which can be hard for people, no matter how much they might care, if they're coming from a different place.
Last night I sent her a text when she was en route to this meet-and-greet, telling her to be herself, be confident, have fun. It's simple in a way, right? But is it? We are so rarely ourselves, because we think that will be deficient. When you're a kid, people--your teachers, for instance--tell you to be yourself, it will be the lesson in a little picture book or what have you, and you can assume that everyone does this, what could be easier? But right now--and this internet age has something to do with it--it's harder and rarer than ever. I don't think very many people do it at all. But when you see me do it, when you see me do it here, when you hear me do it on the radio, you never think I'm compromised do you? You never think I'm weak, right? You think that that person is strong, comfortable with who they are. It's liberating. I hope people find it inspiring. Such a simple thing.
With someone like Emma, all she ever has to do is be herself, and she'll carry the day. She'll come across as smart and funny, and sure, lots of people won't like that, because they're worried they're not smart or funny, but those people have their own battles to fight, and let their battlefield be separate than yours, the things that you care about, that you pursue, that you overcome obstacles in the attainment of. In your reach to reach.
Anyway. I guess it went very well. When I saw her briefly at the Starbucks, she had on a dress, the only one she owns. Which is a new wardrobe addition, I am told. She tends to wear clothes too big for her, and slouches, and when she had to leave her last school in the fall, because of her anxiety, she was dressing, to hear her tell it, like Hobo Joe. So I told her she looked very pretty. I don't know what to say to a kid with these things. I've noticed sometimes with people that what I consider a stray remark, or not much more than, can go a long way. For someone entirely alone, I've noticed, perhaps paradoxically--I mean, look at my life--that having some degree of my approval means a lot to people. I had this ex-girlfriend from college--so this is twenty years ago--and we didn't like each other at all, and a year or so back, she got in touch to say that because of the work she did, she thought I'd maybe even be proud of her. And that struck me. That that was some approval she wanted. Or that meant something to her. And, of course, I've seen people leave my life because of the hit their self-esteem takes, that they're dogged by this feeling of inadequacy that they could never impress me, or I'd never find them fascinating. It's not something I say to them. It's this idea they built up in their head, and it also stems from comparing and contrasting. They leave, and go back to people more similar to who they are, and I'm alone again. It's very hard.
Someone I was engaged to likened what she knew to Chinese foot binding. That was her life, with her group, the people who she pretended to be friends with, and the persona she affected. People didn't really know her, she said, there were no actual connections because everything was a dodge or deceit or pose. And then when we met, it was like the bindings came off, but that was a different kind of pain. One to which she was not accustomed. And that freedom, the new motion, the new possibilities, was overwhelming. Different searing. I know that something like that can just take some time. Further settling in. Mutual love. And it becomes fine. Like there was never any pain of adjustment. You are your honest, unfettered self, and you find that not only is it enough, it's pretty great. And God how the world and possibility just open up. But there can be fear before that, and it's a new kind of fear. Fear of the light, when the cave has come to represent the absence of fear. Never mind the irony that it is the cave that should frighten us more than anything, if we just have the one life, and that is where we choose to be. And so she went back to the binding. The cave. I am sorry to mix metaphors. She also said that she didn't understand what someone like me could possibly see in someone like her. But the reality was, I thought I saw a lot, and I loved her very much. That was difficult. (Levity. Why? Because. To keep from dying.) But it's what always happens. I've come to feel that that will always be how it is. As I said, it's hard to have any hope at this moment of my life, and that goes beyond the hell I am trying to get out of so that the world can see my work and I can do for the world--and for me in the world--what I know I have in me to do. What I do, really, every day, in work after work, albeit as if under cover of darkness. It's not that I can't do it, because I have done it thousands of times. It's not that people would not love it, because humans are what humans are. It is because there has not been the opportunity, which was long ago earned. Let us see what happens after the opportunity is given.
Baseball starts tomorrow. Looking over their roster, I must say that the Red Sox look stacked. Can you be worse than a 95 win team with that group of players? The starting rotation especially stood out. Devers will have a big year. That's one prediction. I think you'll see 35 homers and 110 RBI from him. The homers might be a little high, but he's going to have the chance to knock in some runs.
I saw enough of the Bruins v. Lightning game the other night to know that the Bruins can take two from the Lightning in the playoffs, but I am not sure if they can take four. For them to beat this team, Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak need to be at their best, McAvoy needs to be playing like one of the half dozen best defensemen in the league--a true 1A--and whoever the goalie is is going to have to steal a game or two. I say whoever the goalie is because I think Cassidy will pull Raask out of the top job if he gags a game. This Lightning team is good. They're also very aggressive. They can be too aggressive. If you win puck battles against them, you can use their aggressiveness against them, and you will have some chances. They run and gun a bit. You can't talk penalties against them. Their powerplay is too good.
That Who film is beautiful, isn't it? The contrasting shades, the angles, the band being so tight, the strutters, the dancers, the flirters, those who are too cool to do anything but move as they feel fit, the movement of the camera, with its own dance.
And speaking of Def Leppard...are you?