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Utility

Sunday 3/29/20

New week begins. I'm listening to a radio adaptation of Wilkie Collins' The Haunted Hotel. I look at dating apps and think about fielding the inevitable, repeated rote questions, but I can't. Everyone asks the exact same things. Is there no one out there who is brilliant and dynamic? Or who can communicate in a single arresting thought that is specific to them? "Hey," "How are you?", "How is your weekend?", "How is quarantine?", the same mindlessness again and and again and again. No one can say an intelligent remark that conveys some aspect of their own intelligence? No witty observation? No wisdom? And the acronyms. I know we are supposed to pretend that everything is awesome and everyone is smart and hooray hooray hooray for all, but if someone communicates in acronyms to me it is all but impossible for me to contain an impulse to flee. It's lazy and gutter-y to me, too. Infantile. You want to say something funny, say something funny. Don't pound someone into a migraine with a LOL every other word. And you're a doctor? I'm supposed to talk to a doctor who writes LOL three times a sentence? Who can't write a sentence? I cannot do it.


I was watching Game Six of the 1986 NLCS last night. The announcer made a Beowulf joke. What a different world it was not even that long ago. And yes, I understand that people get nervous, and they are not confident with words, and they are not confident they are funny, and they want to come across a certain way. That's fine. And certainly there are places in my own world right now where I don't function at all and almost anyone functions better than I. I got so beaten down for so long that I collapsed in places. This apartment is such a great shame. There's not a lot I can do about it right now, but even if I could, some days--many--I can barely do anything save to compose, to maintain fitness to keep composing, and then pass out. I'm just talking for me personally. I cannot do the LOL thing with a person. They just wouldn't be for me. I see these people who want to get up to all kinds of debauchery as well, and though I have been entirely on my own even in that arena for years, I just cannot do it. A lack of intelligence--or what I perceive as such--drives me away from everything.


But just practically speaking, a good rule of thumb on dating sites is if everyone else is conceivably and likely saying what you are saying, don't say it. Say your own thing. Otherwise, it's just about your pictures. Then it becomes a question of utility. Ultimately, everyone in our life is in our life because of utility, unless we are simply being selfless and caring for them. Helping them. With nothing coming back. Do a lot of people do that? I don't think so. I do. What then happens is people take advantage of you, they figure you are always fine because you're this person of strength and generosity, and you end up even more alone. For me, with utility, I look at connection, I look at if someone is strong enough to be with me, strong enough to go through this with me, their intelligence, if they are the smartest person out of the next seven million I might meet, their character, their open-mindedness; say none of that is there. What remains? Bodies. You look at utility of bodies, of attraction, kink, sex. But then it is just the physical. One might be upfront that that's all that is in play, but with me, people become intense, sometimes obsessed, often obsessed, actually. I'm not some person to them like another person might be. The words count for more, they want to be thought well of more, they obsess, they run away because it's like it's too much, and they obsess from afar. It is often there every day after ten years or however many years. You don't really un-know me after you know me even if you haven't known me in a long time, if that makes sense.


But quite often, early, in a few words, I know the intelligence is not there. So, again, you move down the utility checklist. Usually what remains is bodies. The irony is is that so many people start there without knowing they are starting themselves there. When you say nothing, when you have nothing to say, when you are not going to have anything to say, and it's all about your photos and continues to be, you are self-objectifying. Also setting a trap to cry patriarchy and get virtue-signaling Woke points when that's the only source of interest. I just move on right away. I wish the person luck. I did that today. And she asks me why I would do that when I had been interested. I hadn't been. I check to see if there is reason for there to be interest. Easy to determine if that is not the case pretty quickly. The people I do talk to are the people--and it's like one every six months--who spell, I'd say, seventy-five percent of their words correctly. That's the bar. Obviously that cannot go anywhere. If you honestly answer that question about a lack of interest, holding back on specificity, try to put it over in as friendly a way as possible, you will be attacked, screamed at, sworn at. But patriarchy, right? Recently, someone texted me on a different number--that is, they had more than one--because I had given them an explanation why I was not interested, which was fair, which was not cruel, and they couldn't leave it go. Why? There are other people. Lots and lots and lots. There are so many other better fits. Find one. In some ways it's personal, and in some ways it really isn't. It is something to see how sexist the comments become when one politely declines, though, and, when pressed, gives a benign reason why. If a man said any of these things as a lump-sum gender thing, he'd be stoned in the street.


The last person I met whom I was interested in was from four years ago, and she was crazy. Knew what I had been through with Molly and then Rebecca, the woman I was engaged to (who will always be an evil child; learned what Molly did and reprised it, seemingly for sport), and reached out to my mom and one of my oldest friends, saying she knew what I had experienced, wasn't going to hurt me, hoped to know them better in time--reached out and did this on her own--and she was married, living a double-life. How's that? Not horrific at all, right? But she was smarter than other people. Often, these people are mentally ill, and it's like so many others are entirely mediocre and essentially opiated by thoughtlessness, by which I mean, you don't think. Just a human blob. Simple pleasures, if you can call them that. Food, Netflix. Latest day-long edging session. Those people are not truly happy, but they're not in as much pain because they tend to be oblivious, like human animals, all physical, very little mental (I have all of these cousins who married the first person of the opposite sex who went out with them; they married, they bred, they played house, that will go on, they'll die, and that will be it, no self-examined life, no critical thinking, no growing; meet, marry, breed, die; they all post the exact same things on Facebook, Instagram; exact same). It's easy to meet a group to belong to if you're like that, easy to meet a husband or wife, you mate, that gives you another distraction and something you have in common with your peers, another subject of conversation--it's not like you're kicking around ideologies of Descartes--and there you go. Simple.


I have not ran in a few days and I need to do that today. I watched season three of Ozark. It's okay. Not very good. Not awful. Far too reliant on the cell phone to move the plot. As you watch, note how every aspect of plot is triggered by a phone call. It's such a lazy ass way to advance things and do exposition. If I graded the show, I'd give it a C. Which is much more than I'd give most things. But still, what's that worth? There is so much room out there for someone to come along and do things that are actually great, not just the least bad. The best I can say about almost anything like this that I see is that it's less bad. But what about greatness?


A lot of women on Tinder tell you how much they hate cops. It's often the first thing they say about themselves, and sometimes the only text on their profiles. If you lead with hate, I think, first of all, you're a horrible, sad person who is best to be avoided. I mean actual hate; I don't mean that you wrote some insightful article about something that happened to you, how you were wronged, what you did as a response, what it meant to your life, your thinking, your other relationships, how you carried on or didn't or tried to or wanted to or were able to again. These "I hate cops" people are so hypocritical and childish, and flat out dumb. Because they want there to be cops. Otherwise, people like this would have a huge problem. They are weak in most ways, and it's not like they want someone breaking into their house or attacking them or whatever. They want cops to stop that. To prevent that from happening by dint of their presence. But they hate them and want you, stranger, to know it, and nothing else? I can understand not wanting to date a cop. The lifestyle, the job, whatever else. I wouldn't want to be with an atheist because, like Bach, like Mozart, like Shakespeare, like Chekhov, as someone with the talent I have, I realize it's not strictly earthly, that there is something of the beyond, deeply of the beyond, that formulated my talent; what that is, I don't know, exactly, or necessarily, but I know it's something. I'd not date someone in publishing if the fate of my soul depended upon it. But the whole of your profile is saying you hate everyone in a profession you need to have exist? Nothing else? Yeah, you're not a nightmare in human form at all, that's going to go well.


I'm critical of John because he was not there for me as a friend when he was the closest I had to one, and he never lived up to his word, and was a daily stressor in my life at the level of anything in it, save for publishing (which blankets everything, from my personal life to my living situation to my health to my family)--though I had no one else to turn to, no one at all, literally no one, and everyone, even I, need at least someone, it seems, or did--but he had a great take on people like this. He called them bad news, which meant a lot more besides what it might seem to be. For someone to be bad news, they are a plague in human form. They are a disassembler of lives. The deeper the life of the person they meet, the more consequence that person possesses in terms of depth, character, passion, goodness, the more they can and will destroy. The child (not in the age sense, obviously) I was engaged to whom I mentioned above--and she'll be a child at forty-eight--was like that. She always will be. I knew John well enough--in some ways, after twenty-five years, I don't think he knew me at all; people I've known my entire life I've learned don't know me at all--that I understood the full gravity of this shorthand between us. In some ways, it was the worst we could say about a non-publishing person. Most people in publishing are something else, further down. Which is a remarkable statement, but a true one.


I did email "Six Feet Away" to John. And he'll probably read it, he'll probably get excited by it, he'll probably think it's a story that would change my life if it were backed and had a chance, a story to impact the world, he'll probably think about what it would do in The Atlantic or The New Yorker, and he'll probably get excited and want to talk to me about it, and want to tell people how millions and millions of people would love this story, and then he will have the realization he always has, that I write with, and that never really leaves him, I would imagine, and that is the likelihood that the publishing industry is not going to let that happen, because Colin Fleming wrote the story. It's more than that. It's a cliche, but what you can say about publishing is that it's not one thing, it's everything. It's literally everything. Yes, being hated, envied, feared, blackballed, is a problem. But even if I wasn't, these people cannot tell anything. They can't tell what is good and bad. They can't tell what would resonate with millions and what zero people would have an interest in. They are inculcated, for years, if not decades, in being told what is good writing. That's actually bad writing. It's like studying game film, for twenty years of schooling, of Tim Tebow's throwing mechanics and having it dictated to you that this is the best way to throw a football. Everything is wrong and off, but it's what is drilled into your head. Plus, it's easier to throw with bad mechanics than it is with Tom Brady mechanics, so they can all throw--that is, write--this way themselves.


Everything is inverted. Good is bad, not funny is funny, lifeless is said to have life, pretentious is said to be authentic, lack of imagination beats imagination, no creativity is better than creativity, old is always better than new, cliched is better than innovative, blood is better than earned, cronyism is better than merit. They are the last people who can tell what is good. They just want to see shit like their shit that they were taught to do and which they teach others to do so the shit cycle just spins and spins and spins. Then it's all about the names. Never the story. I have published fiction in Harper's, the VQR (Allison Wright hates me, Paul Reyes hates me even more; it's always about the person, if one is in place who is open to the work and the work above all, as had been the case before when Ralph Eubanks was the editor; it was the work, the work, the work), wherever else, right? In the short amount of time since, do you know how many stories I've written? How many do yo think are as good as those published stories? Do you think it's none? Of course not. I get better all the time. But it's never about the story. At the same places, when I'm not officially banned, I won't be read, considered, and then there are so many who delight in the power they think they have over me in this one moment. It's my name. Not the right name. And if it's read, you're often dealing with the hunt for the Tim Tebow throwing mechanics. To say nothing of who is your agent, what fake ass awards have you won (which is always a case of being hooked up, not the work), are you a "star" of their system which you've been since 1991, or the new fake star the system is trying to push forward). John used to talk about how we should be having exciting conversations about some new work of art I had created, knowing it was going to soar out into the world, go over massively, shock people, energize people, this collective "Holy shit, what is he doing now?" type of deal. But they won't let me out. They won't let me have that freedom, I'm pinioned.


I did hear from this woman I knew from six years ago. She didn't think I'd remember her. I did. We had a bit of a history, albeit from afar. She was, too, the most beautiful woman I had spoken with, though I would have remembered her anyway. We were not a good fit (I did like her and thought well of her). I made a remark about her visual aspect (she was a kind of apogee of beauty; were I a painter, I would have all but begged for her to sit for me), what I had thought those years ago, which was true, and she said it was not, and was less so now. I didn't know what that meant. I didn't know why one gets in touch after however long to say essentially nothing. Like, okay, continued good luck--which is what I said--etc. She was in Boston now, whereas before she wasn't. She just wanted me to know, I guess. I have no idea. People are strange. Many live in caves, and they want to stick their head out for a moment before going back in. I don't expend time or energy on it. All I care about is getting past the people of this industry and reaching the world. If anyone or anything does not play a part in that, even a small, peripheral part--I guess it could be a weekend long hump-fest for my stress and blood pressure--then I will not dwell on it. I am joking about the hump-fest, so don't start wishing you had a club handy to hit me over the head with. Not that there would be anything wrong with it. People have all kinds of uses for each other.


I need to shave. It's been over a week. For some reason, hair has stopped growing on two places on my chin, on either side, each about the size of half a dime.


One good thing I've noticed is that a lot of people who hate me read this journal. The people who like me, and the people who will, will get much from it, and when I get past these people in publishing, when I have reached the world, when there are the millions buying, I think, as a side pursuit--for it is the work that matters most and it is not close, and anyone who likes these pages is going to be knocked for a different kind of loop, a loop of greater impact and resonance, with the actual work; the books, the stories, the pieces--they will take deep succor in coming here, to the pages of this journal. My point with the people hating me reading it, is that even they have to see the words. That's telling. Or it is to me. I don't think it's so much a hate-read as something else. I am too good of a person, to honest of purpose and character of a person, to be hated that deeply, as if I was treacherous or murderous or a betrayor. The hate, such as it is, often stems from the truth. If I say something about you and you are, say, the editor of Harvard Review--and yes, this means there will be an entry soon on Christina Thompson and her corruption--and I completely expose what you do, are you going to hate me? Of course. You already hated me (the quality of my work, the range of it, the quantity of it, and my publication record had you hating me 5x over, and that's just for starters), so I would say it doesn't matter (and if you think I'm done after one entry on you, you'd be mistaken; I have so much information, and it will keep going up until me and my work are treated fairly and as both deserve; that's how it stops), you were already prejudiced, but it's interesting that someone will hate you when you've simply said the truth about what they did. But I guess it's like when you nab a thief, and there is video of them stealing silver and gold crosses from the church. They are on video. They see themselves on the video. You play it for them. But they still hate you for having the video. Publishing people are a lot like that thief. So, while they hate you, if they are not completely insane--which can be a possibility--they also agree with you, because, again, there is the video, so to speak. What they hate more than you, is the pulled-to-the-surface truth of what they are and about. Which makes them, in a way, hate you even more.


Yesterday I reached out to Emma, who again slept past noon, which is not good. My sense is that she is not going out at all, even to walk her dog, and mental health stuff is compounded by other stuff right now, so I invited her on an outing to Forest Hills Cemetery to get some air. I said we could get out in nature, see some animals, talk, do some sketches, look at old headstones, have a little picnic of things from Dunkin' Donuts. As I expected, she was going to say no. Said she was feeling sick, but I think it would have been something else even if that is true. I told her to wash her hands and to tell her mom how she was feeling.


There is a nest of house sparrows outside. I can't see them but I can hear them. I know when they wake up (after me). I really like house sparrows.


Anyway. Time to get to other things.