My night terrors are such that I cannot sleep without a soothing show on. This involves putting my phone (which is broken; the voice mail doesn't work, but no one ever calls me--really, the only call I get most weeks is when it's time to go on Downtown--and the power winds down very fast, though it's not a battery issue; Verizon tells me that the phone needs to be restarted or cleared--I don't recall or didn't understand--but that will erase the texts, and I want to make sure some are preserved, and I also have to make extra-certain that this won't affect the Notes I have saved, because there are entire stories in there that I have not formally composed yet) atop the warped (for it is the only place to sit in this den of death) twin mattress I sleep upon, while it is connected to the charger. I will use a single show for many months. And then the same shows of that show. I don't want explosions, anything too upsetting. Right now I am using the second season of Cheers, starting with the episode when Coach manages a Little League team. I don't like to use the third season--and I'm awake before it starts--with Sam being an alcoholic and heartbreak and all of that. I have enough in my own life. Not the alcoholism, obviously. I know that someday I will be able to measure my happiness by my ability at night to sleep in a dark room with nothing playing and no devices in the bed. Unless my smoking hot wife buried the Hitachi somewhere in the covers. Sorry. A little levity.
A new story came to me last night while I was asleep. That hadn't happened in a little while. They've been coming to me while awake of late. I have written a number of stories while asleep. "First Responder" was done that way. "Jacks." (Actually, those are opening and closing stories in Cheer Pack: Stories.) The "Window Well" portion of "Sequentials." Yesterday I walked three miles and climbed the Monument once. Someone asked me "why just once?" Like, sorry. Emma was locked out of her apartment late yesterday afternoon, so I took her to Starbucks, where we had a crash course lesson in esoteric horror films: Haxan, The Last Laugh, The Brain that Wouldn't Die. She sent me some Polish avant-garde cartoons. I have not watched them yet.
I composed 2000 more words of "You're Up, You're Down, You're Up" this morning. Excerpt. Something very special is happening here, I think, though just now, the scope of that is not yet fully even in my understanding. This is starting to feel very big to me, though.
Regarding those decades later: by then I had a lost a lot in life. My spouse. My home. My finances. My health. If you were a jocose devil floating by my side, you might add “and your ability to trust,” but I don’t think that would have been true, though the jocose devil who lives in me—or the more cynical, battle-tested angel—might posit that that would have been better, to the tut-tutting of the other angels whom I think still make their residence there. Until, that is, I was in a better spot in life to better deal with blows—the worst kind, the sort dealt from those we love, whom we think love us—if they came again.
That’s maybe too fine a point. I wonder, often, how much love there really is in this world. Perhaps it is better to say the blows that come from those who dip lower in their decisions and conduct and values—and in the effacement of their promises—than our expectations and hopes of them.
But as I said, I am not really interested at the moment in play-by-play for these past matters. I found myself reaching to control the small things, at the time, I could control, so that later, when better opportunities presented themselves, I’d have control in larger stakes. I would be ready for that control. I’d be strong, clear-eyed, healthy, my thoughts limpid and marshaled; I would not be one upon whom bullets were rained, but the executor of what transpired, post-war, moving definitively, with celerity, not having to scrape myself together, in a fog of confusion and lack-of-planning, unready for my moment.
I gave up alcohol, and most mornings, after I had been working since dawn, I took a jog to the Bunker Hill Monument from the studio apartment in which I lived, with a house’s worth of books, records, Blu-rays, box sets, jammed into it; a museum’s worth, if you had the space, a disaster living quarters if you didn’t, and it’s not like you could stick Otis Redding’s entire discography out on the curb next to Orson Welles’s complete films.
The Bunker Hill Monument is one and a half miles from my building. I’d run there, run back, then walk there, walk back. Three miles ran, three miles walked. “Two threes,” in what was to become a developing argot crafted and utilized to spice in a little humor, to give what I was doing a private language to lend it a wisp of fun, but which would also serve to motivate me as riffs of reminders playing in my mind. Then in the rest of the day I’d often walk anywhere from five to twenty-five more miles, working in my head as I roamed, crafting years’ worth of work as I did my cycle of fitness.
The Beatles used to say that to each other during low moments, like when their van broke down in January outside of some Northern factory town. “Something will happen.” One thing that did happen was I became someone far more successful in my industry than I had ever been, diversified and productive in a manner that was empirically, demonstrably, unprecedented.
But you deal with a lot of envy in my business, if you are self-made, if you produce, if you are an expert in many, and seemingly contradictory, areas; if you have no cronies, if you did not go to the right schools, and yet, still there you are, lighting it up. That drives the animus higher, pushes the needle past the red and on towards vermilion. That is viewed, within a system of iniquity, as being a proponent of unnatural order, and it is very threatening to people who can’t do any of it, let alone all of it, with the greased skids they have been provided. This career was the key to things I wanted, to what I could best offer in the world, too, that would mean something to it and help people. And there were just measuring sticks all around. “So and so achieved this thing A, which you achieved, and so and so was then compensated X amount of dollars as a result, and you saw nothing like it, and in fact no dollars and much resentment.” “A,” if you will, would be all that so and so had achieved; they hadn’t achieved A through Z. And I had done that, and back again, and back again, and still many more times over.
I was in the hospital a lot. Irregular heartbeat. A pulse over 200. One time I went in and the woman at the front of the ER who inquires as to what your ailment is, received her answer from me, then immediately took my hand in hers and felt around my wrist. I had no clue that this person had diagnostic responsibilities or the option to give some part of you a quick once-over. She did this, then immediately called for a wheelchair, which had never happened before on any previous visits. I asked if I might walk, to wherever we might be going. It felt like I was going to be wheeled into an anteroom of Dante’s Inferno. She said no, this was an emergency, and two minutes later I was out of my clothes, in a hospital robe, in a wing of the ER I’d never been in before, in a bed, hooked up to various somethings or others, with a large TV behind me with my alarming numbers upon it. It was a small mercy that that TV was over my head, out of my sight. I guess the jocose floating-by-your-side devil could say it was like a plasma ax hanging over one’s skull and neck, like the modern version of the guillotine, but I was somewhat relieved at least that I didn’t have to see it. “Going to need some spare plasma when that plasma falls,” the devil might say.
It occurred to me that I was going to have to outlast people in my career. Concomitantly, I also realized that if my life ever became what I wished it to be, I was going to be desirous of a good long run of that life. It had just been too much shite for too long. For most of it. For that, I’d have to be healthy, and not just someone who lived a long time, but someone who could do a lot when they were older. Do a lot in terms of fun, meaning, connection, activities, sex, and also in terms of the work created and finished, with no shortage of opportunities. I wouldn’t want to waste a single one.
My “two threes” were not going to cut it. All of the miles of walking were not going to cut it. I was out and about, but I wanted to be inside, as well, to feel as though something possessed me, in that it held me, in that it was the boss, but with which I could both find accordance and then master in my turn, remaining housed in this world and yet being what I called, the decider. One whom acts, rather than one whom is only acted upon.
And I was just bored in a life that was rank with tediousness, with no payout to the outsized efforts. Work ten times more than someone else for now, and vastly better, and it’s not going to change at this moment; walk ten miles, walk twelve, walk twenty, walk twenty-eight, and really all it means is you walked a lot more than people walk. And it takes a long time. But something that didn’t take a lot of time, that was unique, that I could get good at, that was really hard and that could help with the whole outlasting thing and aid in readying me for my life and my sought-for-future, when it came (that makes it sound like a money shot from some Dickensian ghost, across my pursed lips, furrowed brow, squinted eyes, but you know what I mean), if it came, could be handy. Of course, when you are seeking something handy, you don’t usually know that if you find it, it could be something that can change how you view the world. That can be bad, if you’re an “ignorance-is-bliss” disciple. Or it can be extra-handy, if you seek to be a decider.
There is, so far as I know, no one else in the United States who uses a building on the National Register of Historic Places as their own gym. Plus, life and self-learning center, and perpetual soul defibrillator, for if you think the soul needs no such thing, I can assure you that you are not correct. And also a chamber in which one can come to understand how this country does not work at the moment, how culture does not work at the moment, how society does not work at the moment, and where all of that is going to take us, unless a kind of battle is mounted that has nothing to do with the bandied about political and social justice causes of the latest freeze-framed, about-to-be-forgotten, flash of the news cycle that leaves no more than another foggy entry in a congealed giant blur of images that mean nothing real, but kill us as individuals and a society in real ways.
When you encounter people, when you truly encounter yourself, within the cramped space of a corkscrewing stairwell of an obelisk which you are running up and down, your return to flat ground is never the same as it was before. Whether it is a snowy late December day and you have been inside alone, or whether it is July 4 and you have shared the space with a tour bus of twenty-five Texans. William Carlos Williams wrote that so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow, wet with rain water. I think it probably does, insofar as your psychological upward mobility goes, or that of the processing eye, that of the image-absorbing portions of our brain, that of nature. Our cognitive and memory-based associations. What we do with those memories. How we process the horizontal world around us, where visibility is limited, especially now, with just so damn much of everything out there, and what we see can become a blur of one building in front of another building in front of another building, obscuring dimensions, and sending us wandering through alleys, rather than entering anything—and this can include our own bodies and minds—that allows us vantage points, that allows us to see ourselves and ourselves in others, and they in us.
And the world’s lost motions of learning.
You’re up, you’re down, you’re up.
Walked three miles, climbed the Monument once. I wrote a 500 word piece for JazzTimes on a huge 12-disc Anthony Braxton box set. Excerpt:
Cut in mid-January of 2017, each vocal symphony—for that is what each piece is akin to—immediately reveals a sonic mise-en-scene suggesting a laboratory rather than a recording studio, where, nonetheless, the elements may be summoned. With the opening Composition No. 192, funereal voices enter as if borne atop winds, sonic remnants from a concluded service for the dead. Those voices modulate into a bebop bridge that sounds like a choir of concatenated Charlie Parker solos.
Emma sent me a charming text that her ass was exploding--only she wrote it in German--which meant she was home sick today and I heard a little voice behind me as I headed out earlier, belonging to Emma, who had flooded the laundry room and now needed help. This isn't really my area--that is, adult who makes things right. But the right people were notified and I think it's fixed now. It is remarkable how many things I am helpless with. If it has anything to do with words, I can do that thing better than anyone has ever been able to do anything else. Or anything to do with strength, will, courage. But anything else--unless it's athletics--I am pretty terrible at, and often helpless. Doing taxes. Hanging something on a wall. Caulking a tub. I could never do these things. Cooking something. I think I could do gardening. Last night at the Starbucks, Emma all of a sudden informed me that she was leaking, and she had not expected this so soon. I popped up with a "right, let's get you home, so you can do what you need to do," which she followed with a "leaking in a female way" further point of clarification, which was really not necessary. Again, not my area, but I like to think I was expeditious at least. Then I carried their groceries upstairs for them.
I am so tired right now. It's not yet 5 PM. Another day composing 4000 words. Shaved for the first time in ten days. Billie Holiday's "Too Marvelous for Words"--from late in her career--has been in my head.