I walked twenty-two miles over the weekend, and ran the BC stairs twenty times. Had a flu shot on Friday. I have noticed that if I don't work out hard in the days immediately after getting a flu shot, I get sick. The pneumonia I had in 2016 came right after having a flu shot. I'm sure this sounds daft and there is no scientific validity to what I am suggesting, but I believe intense physical exertion after a flu shot keeps me healthy. The humidity yesterday was 87%, so it was not much in the way of fun and giggles running up and down those stairs. I tell myself that I do this so I can keep going, that each stair matters, each story matters, each blog posts matters, and it's all going to matter in impacting this world like no one ever has, and when I am back in Rockport, sitting at the desk, listening to Bach or a Stone Roses bootleg, some Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot, drinking coffee on a Sunday, knowing what my work is doing out in the world, I can reflect back on every last one of those steps I ran up and down as most other people were asleep, after having already worked for a few hours, and constantly creating and composing in my head as I go. I have to look at it that way right now. And those steps are part of a legend that is real, will be known as real, that is getting made right now, every day, every hour, every minute.
My insurance had changed without me knowing it, which meant quite a bit of time on the phone trying to get back to my earlier set-up, as my cardiologist is not included in this new one. Give me an hour and I can create a short story that is better than any ever written--actually, give me twenty minutes--but I do not excel--to put it mildly--with some of the most basic life stuff. I think I am also overcritical, maybe, with that life stuff, because it doesn't come as easily to me as other things do, but I can manage, or could, if I tried harder, did a better job, wasn't boxed in by fear with what I am presently going through, but I don't know. Yesterday marked 1561 days, or 223 weeks, without a drink. As per usual, I wrote quite a number of people over the weekend who absolutely hate me, offering them masterful works that they would not put out even if those works cured cancer or set them and their family up for life, because it is by me.
After I had finished my stairs on Saturday, a groundskeeper shouted at me, "Make sure you stay hydrated, young man!" That was nice of him. When I was walking through Brookline, which is a very wealthy area of almost exclusively white people who are woke and often insufferable, a Black man was passing in the other direction, in a wheelchair, in the bike lane. He was moving at a pretty good clip, clearly working out. I don't believe in wearing a mask when I am out and about in my life. I'll wear one in a store, but not when I am walking ten miles in the fresh air. I believe in mental health--which hardly anyone caters to, and is a far larger problem, with people's refusal to tend to their mental health completely controlling my life--and physical fitness. You'll see someone else who is robust, healthy, going about their life, like this guy, and it's like you have this little bond. I notice that we tend to look each other in the eyes and say hello, and there's a kind of mutual respect one notes even in these passing exchanges. So, he says to me, "How is it going, my brother?" And I say to him, "What's up, my brother?" Then he says, "It's getting to be that time of year." And I didn't know what he meant, but then again, yeah, it is getting to be that time of the year, so I said, "that it is, sir." I like little things like that. Or you could be a person in publishing who writes nothing, does nothing, then hops on Facebook to post how they dared to get a haircut for the first time in six months, to which everyone then comments that they are brave, a hero--no, a shero--and it's the same person who posts about how they've not been able to write anything all year, because of COVID. Right. That's the reason. It's never you. Funny how it's always something though, right?
You have to realize that that person is emblematic of the person I approach. Of course they're going to hate me. You have no chance with a person like that. I saw another woman in publishing also post about how brave she was to get a haircut. Lots of haircut heroism. Then the lemmings call her a shero as well. (My bad, actual lemmings--that is insulting to the animal species itself.) But this second woman added that hair stylists are akin to first responders. That's what you're dealing with. That's how warped these people are. How divorced from reality. Yeah, cutting some hair or racing into the scene where bombs just went off, or diving into the frigid lake to try and rescue the old man drowning, same thing. Yep. Totally comparable. You come along with work that is as real as reality has ever been (truth and reality destroys these people; they can't live in realms of truth and reality; they need the cocoonery of lies and formula, the balm of cronyism, nepotism, and fake validation at all costs), you are the person who constantly creates, who lives and lives fully, and that's pretty easy for someone to see, right from a cover letter--and they already know who I am beforehand--and you're screwed with that person. None of it will work with them. Not real work that is amazing, not a genuine person, not a person with perspective, not a non-coward. It's not going to work. They would put a child molester forward before you. A rapist. (And often they literally do, despite what they say about justice.) I am not being metaphorical or hyperbolic. There is no type of person they could hate more, because of how that person makes them feel about themselves by way of comparison. That person and their work. Which their own work could never touch. They hardly make any work at, even. They make excuses for not creating anything. That's what they make. And grudges. And faux-connections with people just like them, who care no more about them than they care about those other people. Then they call it being a literary citizen.
Why do I try? I have to. And something has to give at some point, and something giving can also be me being wrong about one of these people, or enough of them. Just the once. Or just the once something will occur that goes against their nature, and maybe re-sets other things. I have put my faith in the decision that if I keep writing better than anyone ever has, and adding to a body of work that redefines the meaning of the word unique, I will get to where I'm going. Plus, you see a new story, you read it back, you read it again, and you just say, "My God, how could this not move all?" You're beholding it. It's tough not to believe in the power of that work to somehow overcome the hate of these people. It's hard not to believe that there isn't anything the work could not do when you read it back. I suppose that's the bigger reason why I try.
I acquired quite a lot of fruits--apples, raspberries, grapes, bananas, blueberries, as well as granola in various forms, bar and bag. Also no fat milk for my blood pressure, and Halloween cards for my nephew and nieces. Normally I get them Peanuts-related cards, because, well, Peanuts, right? Everyone likes them. Not so. They're not really into them that much my sister said. So I got the baby a "It's your first Halloween" card, a throwback Mickey Mouse card for the boy, who I recently saw attired in a sweatshirt with an old school Mickey on it, and an owl hooting out "I miss you" for the older girl--she's four--who is funny and kind of rebellious it seems and very frank in how she talks, so I find that pretty appealing and amusing. The boy is big into Star Wars. That made me think of all of the original one sheet posters I have from the original trilogy that are in storage in Jamaica Plain, waiting for me to get my house back.
Really all I care about is art, to be honest. It's everything to me. It's more than the world to me.
Here's a new op-ed in the New York Daily News. I guess it ran Friday. I didn't see it until this AM. It's good. About Satchel Paige, who made a final appearance in the Majors at age fifty-nine, and dominated. He couldn't play in MLB until he was in his forties, because of segregation, but I see this outing and I think it bolsters a viable case as best pitcher of all-time. I've been thinking more and more about Paige's candidacy for that spot over the last year or two. So, right now, I think the best guys are Paige, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove, Roger Clemens. Five best pitchers ever. It's funny--as in disturbing, depressing: you publish a piece like that, and you don't pick up a single Twitter follower. This is the ninth highest circulation paper in America. Not a Twitter follower--lost one, actually--or a FB author page follower. Nothing. It goes out into the world, and that's it. Nothing.
I felt like a lazy loser this morning, so before getting back to work on the book--by which I mean, the one I intend to hand over to the publisher this week, for there are many books in process right now in my world--I wrote a short story called "Underoos." I don't even know what to say anymore. I don't want to say, "this is one of the best I've ever done," but I don't know how I say to someone I know that a story is special, because the truth is they are all at this level. I don't even know how prepared the people who know me and the work are prepared to accept that. I guess maybe they are prepared.
But sometimes I want to say something that makes a work stand out, even if I know it doesn't stand out compared to everything else I'm doing. It's uniformity of apogee right now. It's sick, fucked up, crazy, unprecedented, but it's true. This one is really good. I was saying to Kimball the other day on the radio when we were talking ghost stories, that what you want to do as an artist is create what I call a "why didn't I think of that?" kind of work. What I mean by this is something that can be summed up simply after it exists, which makes someone else kick themselves for not thinking it up first, though no one else could have thought of it. "Fitty" is this way. "Sega Man" from Between Cloud and Horizon. "Jute." "First Responder." It's in that category. When did I think of it? Two-part process. Yesterday, on my long walk, I was recording a video above the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. What I'm going to do is have a YouTube channel, and I'll put up the radio segments on there, and videos I make on my travels and walks. I made two over the weekend. I was talking about Underoos, among other things. then I woke up for about a minute in the middle of the night, the entire story came to me, word for word, and I said, aloud, "right, got it," and went back to sleep. I don't know who I think I'm talking to. The universe? Because I never stop creating. Then I formally typed it out, at 1200 words. I wrote the song "Shake Sugaree" into the story, as part of its impeccable engineering. The design of this thing. Man. Then the emotional wallop. I build this fucker by what I hold back, then I crush you with it, and I crush you with the tragedy, and I crush you even more with the humanness and the beauty. I have total control of what I reveal, how I reveal it, what I reveal by what I hold back, what is revealed because it was not revealed earlier and the time comes for a revealing that now has a totally different level of power. Anyway, it's good.