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The Ropes

Wednesday 9/15/21

It’s a bizarre feeling trying to find a certified birth certificate when you’re adopted and you don’t know who your biological parents are. You can’t fill out some of the form. You weren’t given a name. Eerie and discomfiting. Nonetheless, my license is renewed.

Ran 3000 stairs at Government Center each of the last two days.

A small thing that's not a small thing, perhaps: I've noticed when you run stairs, that no two sets of stairs are ever the same. They're not the same size, same depth, same amount, same angle. The stairs you run/climb are always different. I put a lot of stock in noting this.

Forked over a copy of the Sam book to a comely barista at the Starbucks, with a nice little inscription. Would I have given it to her if she were not so? You grilling me, man? Yes, I would have. (She is beautiful, though.) She's very nice, and seeing her has brightened many a day over the last couple of years. Always has a smile and a friendly word.

Here's a new op-ed that came out yesterday in the New York Daily News, on the NFL, "Lift Every Voice," and Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" as the anthem beyond anthems. Nice tie-in with the book.

This is last night's interview on Downtown. I made a couple mistakes. Said Library of America when I meant Library of Congress, of course, and 1943 when I meant 1973. My bad. But it's a very good talk, covering Muddy Waters at Stovall's Plantation in 1941, the Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing" with some Keats dropped in, cool players who weren't necessarily stars (didn't have time to get into basketball and hockey examples, but I think later we'll chat about goalies who fit this bill, because there are a lot of them), the appeal of low-scoring games, what makes college football so special, with a nod to William Sloane's To Walk the Night. I think what I said about a rainy Sunday afternoon has real value. I lay out the three hours for you. It's not just failing to take the initiative that stops people from learning--it's not knowing where to start.

I was listening to Orson Welles on Parkinson in 1974 the other night, and that just had me thinking again what it will mean to have all of these interviews I've done preserved. I can't think of anything remotely like this body of work--this portion of my body of work. What I mean by that is yes, Welles gave interviews, and Dylan, and Lennon, but really not that many where you can go back and listen to them, study them. Not thousands, not hundreds.

I finished "Welts Not Welts," that story that is told by a Black woman who grew up as the only Black person in her small, rural town. I then composed a 1200 words story called "The Coming of the Christ," and read some of it on the phone to someone--and had to pause several times, because I was tearing up, which one would not think at first with a story of this nature. A letter to some people:

This is a remarkable story. It looks like it is going to be one thing, and reveals itself to be something much, much more. I expect that you, Norberg, will say I have gone too far, tell me you'll pray for my soul, and wish to sit me down for a talking to, but I have not gone too far. I have shown life as life is. I have shown truth as truth is. Life in this world, in this time, as life so often stands, or does not. This is a story about simulacrum, gaps, emptiness, longing and need, the broken, the substitutions we make. Is it sacrilege? Does it go where it should not? I say no. I see beauty here. I see beauty because I see truth.

I think about the stories everyone else writes. How they are exactly what you would expect them to be after you look at the first line. They are always predictable. Because they contain no life.

Someone wrote me the other day about my story, "The Last Field." She wanted to compliment what she called "the obliquity" of the story. I didn't really know what that meant. She went on to say that the story constantly surprises you, that nothing seems pre-scripted or pre-ordained. That the truth and the meaning is organic. And the emotion.

I thought, well, yes, that is what I do, that is how life is.

I share some of these awful stories by publishing types with people, and they never need to look at more than the first two or three lines to know exactly how the rest of it will be. Every time. That's not writing, and it's certainly not art.

And people really are this way. This is real.

Pitched something on Led Zeppelin.

Sent some great works to bigots, to whom I would say, get on the right side of this before it takes you down, because it will if you don't. Because how are you going to justify what you did later? It's not going to go away, it's not going to be forgotten.

Was talking to Kimball about what I call favorable math. Bud Grant is still alive. Who is Bud Grant? He played professional football in the early 1950s, then went on to coach the Minnesota Vikings. (He's in the Hall of Fame, actually.) When he was Kimball's age, it was 1990. So the Strokes' first album--which is considered almost an oldie now, right?--was eleven years away. When he was my age, he was coaching Alan Page and losing Super Bowls to the Dallas Cowboys.

If Ohtani wins the MVP it will be because of narrative, the tropes of the news cycle, how readily people fall in line, and how those tropes largely extirpate everything else at every level of culture.

I know someone who was a drummer, who speaks of how they still nurse some pipe dream in the back of their mind of hitting the road and playing to packed houses. True, they'd be playing Winger covers in this person's dream scenario, but today I decided to help him out.

I suggested that he start a band called Hot Ropes of Seed. They could truncate it to just the Ropes. That way, at the end of a gig, before the cranking final number, someone could say, "We are the Ropes! We thank you for coming! And may you all come again! One two three four!"

Right? Good show.


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