On both Saturday and Sunday, I walked ten miles and ran the stairs at BC five times. Yes, my bad, only five--I don't have the stairs to myself anymore, and there was some stuff I wanted to get back to. Yesterday I wrote a short story called "You've Arrived," which is excellent and unclassifiable, perfect for reading aloud. It contains this line:
"Could you be more scared of anyone than somebody whose respect you’d do anything to have?"
Last weekend over the holiday weekend--so three days--I walked thirty-seven miles and ran the BC stairs thirty times. I ran at least three miles all of the other days of that week. Here is the Downtown segment from last week, which covered Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, The Blob, John Keats and "The Eve of St. Agnes," the Yardbirds' BBC sessions, and the returning NHL.
Finalized everything with F(r)iction for the publication of "Post-Fletcher," which is one of the stories I feel best about. Their editors deserve credit, because I believe they helped make the story better. I do not say that often, but I'll say it when it's true, and it is true here. They were a pleasure to work with as well. It's a beautiful, haunting story, scary, sweet, painful, also wry, funny, uniquely-toned, about a man who is not yet dead, who nonetheless has a ghost in this small coastal town in which he lives, for whom he believes he is responsible. His ex-wife lives on the other side of the country, has settled into a new and successful relationship, but they have reestablished something across the 3000 miles. There are all kinds of ways we say goodbye in this life. But I am certain that no one has seen a way quite like the one in "Post-Fletcher."
On Downtown this week, I'll talk about the protests, and also what MLB should do to fix its game in 2020, and the opportunity the NHL has right now and also the legacy opportunity, if you will, that Tuukka Rask has presently also. If one does not know my work, and applies what others do and are capable of doing to what I just said, that might seem flippant, this admixture of serious talk--the protests--and not so seriously talk--the sports--but everything I write about and talk about is done withe gravity and perspective that anyone could best marshal. One would have to read it and hear it to know that, but that is easily done.
In other fiction news, JazzTimes will publish my short story, "The Day Louis Armstrong Lost His Color," next month. They do not publish fiction, so this is an exception. Think about that. A venue that does not publish fiction, with a higher circulation than any literary magazine, by far, recognizes how special a story is, and wishes to get that story to their readers, a story that will be seen, but because of the bigotry entrenched in the literary magazine system, no journal, that hardly anyone in the world is aware of, that is not read, that has a circulation largely consisting of copies that are mailed to other journals and contributors and some people in MFA programs, will run that same story. The story is about Louis Armstrong waking up on a day in 1935 in which he has a huge gig at Carnegie Hall--an even bigger deal for an African American performer at the time--and he is no longer black. We see him throughout the day with his wife, trying to navigate this problem, find a solution. Josh Gibson, the Negro League catcher has an appearance, and Colin Clive, who was then starring in Bride of Frankenstein. Again, a story completely unlike anything else. Also, I'm going to be writing the cover story for the August issue of JazzTimes, which will be on Charlie Parker for his centennial. That won't be all that I write on Parker for the occasion, but each piece, of course, will take a completely different approach.
Looked over corrections for Meatheads Say the Realest Things for the last time--it's all done, the text. I feel as good about this book, as a work of art, a piece of entertainment, something that millions could love, as anything I have ever done.
A few words of clarity, too. People are coming to this blog at all different points now. This journal was launched in June 2018--so two years ago--and it is now nearly the length of ten full books, if you put it between hardcovers, which is my intention--that these pages will be between hardcovers--and how I've written them. Not as one writes a blog, which, let's be honest, tends to get updated once a month or whatever. People don't have that much to say, right? They have a hard time of thinking up content. Or their blog is centered on a single subject--Victorian ghost stories, for example. Once every two months, they post an entry about a Victorian ghost story they read, tell you about the author, the strengths and weaknesses of the story, and that is the extent of the blog. Which has its use. But that's not what this is. In all ways, this is a different beast of undertaking. In that same period I have written what must be 150 short stories by now--though I must count--and books, and, of course, all of the nonfiction--the essays, the critical pieces, sports pieces, the op-eds. People who discover this journal tend to back read it, I have learned, but, as I have said, it's a lot of material. We're closing in on 700 posts.
I had mentioned that yesterday marked four years for me without a drink. That's what I wanted to address again. Normally a person would say, "four years sober," but I was never not sober, though I drank more than many alcoholics, usually twenty to thirty units of alcohol a day. A unit of alcohol is a glass of wine, a beer, what people call a shot. I did not get drunk, and on some level, to deal with the pain and loneliness of my life, especially after the otherworldly divorce I went through--which one can also read about, and which will be a large part of a coming memoir--I needed to drink, or felt that I did. Also to have something else to do, because I was--and am--totally alone. I don't have friends, or anything like that.
So while I was not getting drunk, per se, I had a drinking problem, and I had a larger problem in that this was effecting my heart, my fitness, my chances of living for a long time. And, more important still, my chances of being strong enough--which requires physical fitness--to get out of the situation I am in because of how the publishing system currently works. Which you can read plenty about on here. In order to defeat the people of that system, in order to reach the world, impact the world, change the world as I believe I can and my work can, and also get what I want and deserve coming back to me--and in terms of my quality of life, the re-acquisition of my beloved house in Rockport, and other aims I have for the life I will eventually lead--I had to stop drinking. If I didn't, with my constant stress, what my blood pressure already was, the extra weight I carried, I figured it was pretty likely I'd have a heart attack in my forties or fifties.
What I did was, on a Saturday, I said, "Okay, you can drink whatever you want up until midnight, but when the new week starts, it's over, man." And this was after a lot of years of drinking. I had an irregular heartbeat, too. Life was getting worse all the time, which makes you want and need to drink more, and life gets worse constantly now. It is far worse now than it was four years ago, because I have achieved far more, and the people in this industry have tried to make me pay for what I have achieved, on my own, because that is how this works if you are not one of them. This is no way to live. In poverty, hated, in a box of an apartment with the stuff from the house in it--my books, my records--with nothing working. I don't even have a light. No one has been in here for years, the shades don't go up. I give everything to creating my work, and then exercising so my heart stays strong. I had a nervous breakdown last year. I cry and vomit every day, I often pass out randomly. I can't function in so many ways, but for whatever reason, I keep getting better as an artist. I can make a work of art to last forever any time I wish. On command. But I can't do much else. Right now. Anyway, four years ago, when that Saturday turned to Sunday, I stopped drinking. That's how I did it. There was nothing else. I went from thirty drinks a day to zero drinks a day. And I didn't drink again.
Another reason why I had to stop drinking is because I knew I was going to have to say some things, unpleasant things, about how the publishing system really works. And I never wanted someone to be able to accuse me of liquid courage, or self-medicating and firing away, which is what I see so many people do. I am always on my game when it comes to anything I write or say. Always. I never slip mentally. I might not be able to so much as look at my mail for four weeks sometimes, but with what I say and what I write, I am on, no exceptions, I'm at my peak. I am precise, limpid, and I command language in a way that--well, I don't need to stump for that, it is clear enough.
I still went to bars. There is alcohol in here. Bottle of Ardbeg, bottle of Lagavulin. They are mere feet away right now, because I live in a box. I went to bars and drank cranberry juice, I went to bars and watched the Bruins game and read Proust. I didn't go to meetings, I didn't have a sponsor. I fixed my blood pressure, my heart beat. I have been writing a novel largely set in a bar, called Musings with Franklin and it is hilarious and existential and unique and it is told entirely in conversation between three guys in a tavern, one of who is a huge pervert who dresses up like Ben Franklin.
I am not saying that this is the way to give up drinking or drink less, if anyone wishes to do that, and what works for you is what works for you. I'm just saying what I did. Partially because I don't want someone to think that five years ago I was intoxicated and roaming around Boston or passing out, because I never was. I simply could drink prodigious amounts. My mind was not impacted, but my body--if you see an older photo of me, you'll see how much thicker and rounder my face was--definitely was.
As a tip, for anyone interested, I would say that once you don't drink for just two or three days, you see results. You start to thin out. It's that fast. You make it through a day, that is one of the harder parts. I'm competitive, and I'm really into numbers--I pour over baseball-reference, for instance, fascinated when I see that a guy like Ed Yost once hit .260 but led the league in OBP--so I got into my streak. My mounting numbers. Then I didn't want to wreck my streak. I liked being in better shape, and though I've been romantically alone all four of these years, a lot of people of all ages would say things, and I could go out with that "hot" person whether they were twenty or forty-five. But I am just never impelled. I need connection, someone brilliant, dynamic, self-aware, their own person. Artfully debauched. But, that's a different topic.
I watched The Social Network, which I admittedly had not seen, intrigued by Quentin Tarantino calling it the best film of the last decade. It's fine. It's not some cinematic treasure. I suspect the reason he likes it is because of the design. It uses a lot of temporal match cuts. In other words, someone will be talking at a given point of time, they'll ask a question, and then we'll cut to another period of time when someone else answers that question. That's more imagination than you usually get with a film, though D.W. Griffith was using this kind of cutting more than 100 years ago. The problem with doing a work about someone you're positing as a genius, is that you need to be a genius, I believe, to do that well. I don't think a non-genius can make a work about someone who is a genius, and have it be a work of art. I'm not saying that Zuckerberg is a genius--but he's clearly viewed as one by Fincher. Or he is within the context of his movie. That can be a different thing, because ultimately it's a character, even if that character has the name of a "real" person.
I must go know and write a piece on music and the aftermath of the George Floyd murder and also go for a run.