Guggenheim application was due at 11:59 on Monday night, and I got that in with a few hours to spare. I felt like I did a job. I was thorough and thoughtful and explained what I do--which is not an uncomplicated thing--well and fairly, I believe. Earlier in the day I had composed a story I am very pleased with, called "See Her." Tuesday was my birthday. The first person to wish me a happy one was Emma. I walked six miles. No climbs, though. I did Downtown at night. An excellent conversation on the last three stories in Buried on the Beaches. I think it's almost always awful when present day writers try to talk about writing. You have people completely lacking in ability, who are absolute drones, and pretentious drones, talking out of their ass at you, with zero command of language, these awkward, broken husks, about shit that is not for your entertainment or edification, that is solely for the continuation of their fake, obsolete world, their sad little gravy trains, such as they are, their artist colonies, busted selves, shambling, always impure, egos, their need to think that they are smart and you are an idiot, that they are better than you. I think when I talk about writing I make it sound like the most fascinating, fun thing there is. And I am pretty damn confident in that. Listen to it. I could do a radio program on writing and literature and I think millions of people would go for it. I think millions of people would say, "Holy shit, this stuff doesn't have to be boring, I actually connect with this."
Just before going on the air, Emma arrived home from school and knocked on my door--wearing her stylish new black dress with red dragons on it--and serenaded me with choruses of "Happy Birthday" in no less than three languages. Then she told me to text her when I was done talking to Kimball--she just calls him Kimball--because she wanted to take me to Caffe Dello Sport after she got money from her mom. Her mom was with Benny in Framingham, though, for his exam that he needs to pass as part of the agreement with the building board. He failed. But he can re-sit. Yes, that was sort of a pun. So we just went anyway and now Emma is going around adding things up to pay me later which is funny and sweet. We order the drinks--latte for me, hot chocolate for her--and before they come I go to the bathroom, and when I get out there is my coffee on the table and her empty hot chocolate glass and she says, "Can I get another? I'm paying you back," and of course I got her a second one.
She told me that she is not making the kinds of connections she wishes to at school. One of her best friends, Anthony, just left for college in California, and her other best friend, Dorothy, goes to a different school. I think she is feeling what she perceives as the loss of the former--it's not a loss, it's just an increase in distance--and is getting worried because Emma is someone who requires connection. I'm like that. I cannot do the token friend thing. I told her to relax, that it's just been a few days, that these things take time, to settle in, and I promised her that she'd have the kinds of relationships that matter to her, but that we must also understand that relationships like the ones she has with her two best friends are not common things. Especially her friendship with Anthony. I can tell how much she looks up to the boy. When Emma really looks up to someone it means more than if someone else looks up to someone. I feel like Emma is very judicious with her respect. I pointed out that people look to her for guidance, that she is a leader, and that they are also sometimes intimidated by her, that if I were her age I might think she was too cool to be my friend at first, because she is so smart, funny, pretty, into all of the cool books and films and music, and fashionable. But to pick her spots and use her talents to foster connection. Just give it some time. I suggested in the meanwhile that she had me as a bestie but this might not have been very welcome or comforting because she started to cry.
Then we came home and went into the basement. What!!!!?? Relax. It's not A Nightmare on Elm Street. That is where her dad has many books and she wanted to select some to read. A vetting process then ensued. She asks me about the titles, I offer some info, then she makes up her mind. First she wanted to read Jung, but I think a lot of that had to do with the cover art, and also Henry Miller, which thankfully was returned to the pile in favor of the short works of Tolstoy and a stand-alone mini-book of a Sherlock Holmes story. I taught her what a locked room mystery was, then she wanted help on her art home work. The night before she was supposed to cut out examples of design from magazines, newspapers, any kind of print-based thing, and explain in a few sentences why the design was effective. She didn't really have anything to cut from, so I gave her a copy of Rolling Stone and JazzTimes, plus a flyer for the Christmas Revels, an issue of The Horn Book, and an advertising pamphlet for the Boston Philharmonic. She just starts making collages, and I say, dude, that's not what the assignment is, but she's not going to heed this input and called me a pussy. So as we're sitting there at Caffe Dello Sport and I asked how school was, she says, "My teachers are very forgiving." I say, "This is about the homework, is it not?" Sheepish look on her face. "Yeah."
They had her do it over, and she showed it to me and I taught her some additional things about planar fields, depth of field, how forms of advertising engage us on levels beyond the topically conscious and examples of that. Then we walked Benny to the dog park and said goodnight upon returning home, and I sent her this text before I went to bed:
"I meant what I said today. Give it time. Keep putting yourself out there. You have a real gift to make connections. It'll come. I promise. And hanging with you was the best birthday present in a long time. Thank you."
Yesterday she knocked on my door so I could see her off, as she put it, and I looked like hell having just woken up--I slept almost to seven, which I never do--in my white Creature Double Feature T-shirt and black BC sweats. Her stomach was bothering her so yesterday at CVS I picked up some chewable tablets--I don't know what they were called but they were like Rolaids was the gist--she can keep in her school bag and also got her a candy bar because she has a notorious sweet tooth. Then this morning she texted asking if she could "borrow" some Advil, which I gave her, after which asked if Advil also helps with sore throats, and I said probably not and sent her on her way with a fistful of Halls lozenges, too.
On my birthday I also wrote a new story, 1600 words long, called "Part," as strong as anything I've ever done. And terrifying. I think it could be must reading for psychology students and mental health professionals. I went downstairs to do the laundry and I saw a man in the street with his back to the door and when I came up he was still there with his back to the door and I had the story. How could be a story? Trust me, it was a story. Did it ever become a story. Major work after major work after major work. There has been nothing like this, and I'm just doing it, man, I'm going with it. There appears to be no immediate point but I am capable of creating a timeless work of art every day now and I am going with it. Yesterday I walked three miles and climbed the Monument three times. Today I composed another story, "Ki-Me-O," 2050 words long, the thirty-second story since June of last year. Have thought more about the title to Meatheads as well. As in, Chads Say What: Being a Novel Novel in Laughter for People Tired of Crying But Relieved Not to Be a Bro (and the Unification of America).
I can work so much harder and I need to. I am ashamed of how I have let things go, what I have not faced, what I have yet to compose, but I also know that if things change and it becomes go time, it is going to be no problem for me to write four books a year and two screenplays and do a speaking tour and write an op-ed column and host a radio show and hold down a magazine position. That is going to be a piece of piss. I know what I am capable of. This is what I'm doing when I am paste and destroyed and have no motivation or hope or joy or a single thing to look forward to or even the sense ever that "this could work out and be great and what a difference it will make and we will have payoff." This is me at my most lugubrious and I am doing things no artist has done or will approach. But give me a platform and the knowledge that the work, each work, can immediately lead to pay off, get to whom it needs to get, and the terrifying thing--maybe the people who want to keep me down sense this--is that my current rate of productivity will look like sloth by comparison. I could be the industry. Or an industry. This is what I look like when I can barely function.
I think I will discuss a cornucopia of autumnal works on Downtown next week. Some combo of Hammer's The Gorgon, Van Gogh's The Mulberry Tree in Autumn, Charles Ives' "Autumn," Charlie Parker's "Autumn in New York," John Clare's "Autumn," Welles's The Stranger, Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry, Beatles for Sale, William Sloane's The Edge of Running Water, the work of John Atkinson Grimshaw. Probably The Gorgon, the Bird, the Sloane, the Van Gogh, the Clare, in that order. I have so much to say about each.
This is a photo from this week. Emma said it sucks but I think it is pretty good, or I look fit anyway, which is really all I care about with these things. Gauging fitness, nothing else. Not trying to be Walker Evans here.