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The quest

Thursday 3/28/19

Checked my email for the first time in two weeks. There is nothing there. It's an industry-wide freeze-out. Picked up three assignments, which will total 4500 words of writing--so much writing--for $700. Today I wrote a 4100 word essay on King's Quest which I will not be able to do much, if anything, with. Despite it containing prose like this:

I spent a lot of time in those woods, which went back for miles, after the houses of our development had been erected on roughly rectangular parcels of land. I marked paths by breaking small branches, waded in a brook where crayfish and snapping turtles—the punk roués of the small stream ecosystem—went about their days. I saw black racers haul ass—if asses they had—after mice, and once I even thought I saw a copperhead, though I had no one there to confirm this with me, and my little nature books said that none lived in these parts. The copperhead chased no mice, but rather just stuck its head out from under a clump of desiccated beech leaves that had fallen from the tree above, as if the snake had been waiting for some cover to descend like softly falling calico snow to match, more or less, its russet scales. It struck me as the perfect autumn snake, and I was glad I was not a vole passing by at ground level.

It seemed like everything we did was done outside. Street hockey, games of flashlight tag, intense backyard baseball series for the highest of stakes when you are that age—bragging rights—and whatever someone else might think up next. Which is why it seems a little incongruous that something that shaped me, I now realize, as both a thinker and a person—and even a burgeoning artist—took place indoors, in my family’s basement.

I’m not a big computer game person. As an adult, as I make my dizzying—oft-depressing—tour of dating sites, in my search for someone brilliant, dynamic, surprising—eh, we all want what we want—I’m taken aback by the number of my fellow adults who play a lot of video games. True, I’d rather you do this as one of your daily pursuits than contact me with a “hi LOL” that causes a little bit more of my soul to leak out of me and congeal on the floor, or solely inquire as to what oil I prefer to cook with, especially as I do not know that people cook with oils and have no clue or interest that it matters very much which one you select.

But it’s weird to picture someone thirty-years-old sitting there, “gaming,” after a day of working at the hospital, or at the law firm, the school. Not that I’m expecting them to lug out another translation of War and Peace to continue on in their evaluative comparison of which is best. (“Suck it, Constance Garnett! Props to you, Pevear and Volokhonsky!”) But, like, Mario Kart? Those brothers are still around? Obviously Fortnite. You hear about that so much that even someone like myself, who has no clue, exactly, what it is, knows the kind of thing it is.

It’s usually around this point—and I have this apperceptive reaction repeatedly—that I realize I’m being somewhat hypocritical. Because for all of the books I read, all of the forest I explored, all of the hockey games I partook of, if we’re talking proper nouns, little did more for me in my childhood than a computer game called King’s Quest whose mere mention sends me back to rolling greenswards that never actually existed, but from which I learned that important waters can be added to that vernal pool inside of all of us, which in turn can flow back out into the world in such a way that we are truly joining it, at the level of who we are. Or, if you are an artist, at the level of that which you might make.


The essay is called "Basement Beans: Travels with Sir Graham in the Land of King's Quest (and Artistburg)". Someone sent me this: "I think of you daily and I am pulling for you to see this through to the victory. It will come--it's like triple overtime, I know, but you have the legs to see it through."

I don't know. I have no hope. It's not that I'm facing one problem. A blacklist is pretty bad. How does one person beat a blacklist? But even if I do, the world doesn't read. You'd have to get people reading again. Quickly. Nothing in this world outside of sports is given to someone because they're the best at something. If, say, a radio gig was about being the best on radio, I'd have a gig. Obviously. I also think that many people can't even tell what is good anymore, they swim in such rivers of shit all the time. The shit starts to become what they call good, and then it becomes what they think is good. (I do know that publishing people are exponentially more prone to this. Regular people have more of a bullshit detector.) When I go to a film, and there's a clever line, not a lot of people laugh. When there's a fart joke, they laugh. Yesterday I'm reading about Gronkowski's "Q" rating and how it's higher than Tom Brady because Brady is "polarizing," and Gronkowski is like a talking tub of pudding, and I think, do we really live in a world where people want to hear what Rob Gronkowski has to say with regularity? That's entertaining? Can a chimp be entertained by that? Are we lower than chimps now? If you are a great artist, you are going to be polarizing. Much more so than a quarterback. That's bad? Seems bad now. I think you're just supposed to be a mindless cuddle toy. This lack of hope thing is a problem, because I feel my internal scaffolding starting to buckle, and eventually I'm going to collapse, and I won't be able to get back up. I have all of these structural cracks now. The body needs water. Hope is like the soul's water. You can't live without hope. I don't have any hope right now, and that is based on good reason upon reason. The only thing I can think to tell myself is that this cannot be the way it ends for the best artist ever. But maybe it is, in the twenty-first century. Maybe it gets even worse first. I also sent out 100 things today, mostly to horrible people who will never respond. You think the 4100 words for the essay was long? There were 7500 other words, down the drain, to these people.  

I want to fill these pages with good news and progress and major successes and excitement and reports of change for me personally and societal change and impact and reports of deserved gigs and the latest big deal and happiness because despite being unlike anyone, and how lonely that is, I am someone wired for happiness. But not while getting my teeth kicked down my throat every day.


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