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Week update

Friday 5/8/20

I've written nearly 30,000 words this week. The sports op-ed that was supposed to run in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday will be running next week. My fault. I didn't see the final edit in time. They had to reschedule. They were nice about it.


Here is a piece on the Beatles' Let It Be album and film that is in The Daily Beast today. On Tuesday I talked about those subjects on Downtown. On Monday, I wrote a 2000 word essay on the jazz song "St. James Infirmary" and COVID-19. It's says so much that this is all within a week and that every week is this way and that things are how they are and there isn't an agent in America who would represent this writer and this is what they are doing. Constantly.


I need to see where edits are at with an American Interest feature on F. Scott Fitzgerald's early fiction. I completely redid the essay on Joy Division's last song for The Smart Set, and next must finish edits on two pieces for them, one on Joan Harrison, the other moving/relocating. I wrote a 1500 word short story called "Window Walk." I also completed one of the three major stories I had mentioned, in "Rain Dried," which I worked on for several weeks. That one was 3200 words long. It's kind of like "Find the Edges" from Harper's, I would say, but also distinct. It is a beautiful work.


Today I wrote a short story called "Come When You Can," about a nurse in the time of COVID-19, and elements of the hypocrisy rampant in our culture. She is in her thirties and she lives across the street from a couple in their early forties who have a kid in high school. The story is told by the wife. The nurse, they presume, is widowed, but she lives with her husband's father, who is dying, but at home, not in a hospital. The nurse asks the wife to do something for her, a few times a week, involving the father-in-law. And she asks her to come when she can, which is going to mean a number of things within the context of the story.


I had to ask Bloomsbury for more time with the Sam Cooke book, which I should have had in in December. I need to get this Beatles book chapter to Da Capo, and also this proposal to someone else about a book on the BBC version of The Office. And proof and fix If You [ ], do the Scrooge book. Etc. Write this big Dylan essay for Quillette. Do the Billie Holiday book. Finish two novels in Musings with Franklin and The Freeze Tag Sessions. Further, there are now 140 unpublished short stories sitting here, which I have to do something with.


The pressure every day is so great. All of this that I describe barely begins to get into anything. I'll tell you what's tough, too--everyone wants you on their level. That's fine and easy to handle if you're like everyone and more or less on the same level, but if you're not, it's exceedingly alienating and depressing. Someone will say to me, "If it makes you feel any better, I'm behind on some things I have to write, too," like you're in the same situation. And you go to this person's site or whatever and you see they don't write anything, they have a blog they put 600 words to every other month. But they think it's the same. And then you just think, "What am I doing anything for, what am I even alive for if no one can tell the difference?"


Yesterday I wrote a 900 word short story called "Three Bouts." It's about two boys and three fights they have, and after the second fight, one of the boys knows that he can kill the other boy in the next fight when he hits him a certain way. I'm just thinking about some of the recent stories. This one is third person, about these two boys. "Window Walk" was also third person, with a girl as the protagonist. "Rain Dried" is first person with a male protagonist. As for those two other major stories that are ongoing, one is third person with a high school-aged girl as the protagonist, the other, "Green Glass Door," is first person with a wife and husband and their daughter together again in quarantine--so kind of a triple protagonist story--but with the wife probably being the main character and she tells the story. The one whose title I'm not saying yet is also in that "Find the Edges" zone, what will probably be 2500 words or so, such a gut punch, honed, sculpted words opening up emotional worlds. But I'm hated. It's not the work. I'm doing better work than ever.


"Green Glass Door" is well plotted. A marriage is in a certain shape, the daughter comes home on account of COVID, people exist in relationship to other people, not necessarily to each other, and we see how this husband and wife came together in a first place that had elements of COVID-19 before there was COVID-19, and how the daughter is handling a situation from afar, with someone who had been integral to her development at school, as the virus visits another home. And in some ways the daughter has gone past the mother and the mother knows it, but the mother also helped make that possible. Green Glass Door is a kind of word game, and they play it in the story. The point of the game is to figure out the rules of the game. Or the rule. So you'd say, "Behind the green glass door there are house sparrows but no gold finches." Then the other person tries to do it back. And the daughter figured out the game early on, when she was just a kid, but she's back now, they're playing games, killing time, and she and her dad sort of re-stage green glass door, though they both know it works.


I gave Emma a box of animal crackers and a printout of "Rain Dried." Left them outside her door. I have no clue what this kid's deal is. I don't think she's this rude, but something is up. She won't even return the shirt I had lent her once. She's not doing anything. Has all the time. But she will not give this shirt back. We don't talk. We have no relationship at this point. Which is sad. It's not a case of anyone having outgrown anyone, I'm sure of that. I have no idea. I've known my share of mysteries in life--look at Molly--but I'm completely at a loss with this kid. More so because I know the depth of our connection. Am I upset? Well, yes and no. Sometimes when you're very giving to someone, and you love them, and they just behave in a certain way that they take all choice from you--any option to maintain or develop the relationship--you're not as sad. I'm not as sad, anyway. I think I'm more sad when I do something wrong. Then I do "what if." With Emma, there was no "what if" I could do. I get that teenagers lock in on themselves. But not like this. They are not automatically terrible people. And if I didn't know her better and I just saw her behavior, I'd think that. Someone said to me recently that they knew I loved them. Well...that's kind of tricky for me. Love is a two-part thing in my world. I love, in a way, humanity. I give entirely of myself to humanity. I try to. In my work, in the ends I'm after. I think a love of the human spirit--what it can be--is what you'll find throughout my work. The love that only comes with vulnerability and sacrifice and giving. Reaching.


Those humans are real, but this is also an idea--it's a humans at large thing, not an individual human thing. In my own life, with individual humans, it's very hard for me to love anyone. Now, if someone isn't some enemy and they make a remark like this person did, you don't argue against it. It's true or it's not true, but that's almost not germane. You don't need to say one way or the other. But for me, personally, in that individual sense, I need connection. And for that to happen, that person has to be much smarter than just about anyone you are ever going to meet. I just need that. It's not right, it's not wrong, it's just how it is for me. In my life, I've had two connections. And that's it. I had no connection with Molly. I've had no connection with any guy I've ever known. I had a connection with a woman I was engaged to. This was an evil person. I knew that right away. I weighed that against the connection. And how rare that is for me. I thought, foolishly, of course, as I pretty much knew, that the whole horrible person thing could be coached away, or up, as they say; there would be influence, etc. People change. Stupid. But I took the chance. And when it worked out as it did, I was upset, but not surprised. And eventually I couldn't care less about that person, because all I saw was what they were. Which wasn't much. But they were smarter than other people. In some ways.


And the other person was this kid I mentored, with Emma. She brought a lot to my life, too. Different things, of course. She impacted me as an artist. I wouldn't have written "Fitty" and so many other things if I hadn't had my experience with Emma. That's bittersweet right now, because I'm dealing with a publishing industry that is suppressing these works because they are 1. By me 2. Utterly unlike anything else anyone else writes (with how everyone else writes having effectively killed off reading in the world).


So it'd be easier to be excited about this and rate it as a good thing if the stories were out there being loved by millions of people, which is what I believe will ultimately happen (I better damn well be alive for that), and I hope not too long off. You are more upset, though, when you have Sgt. Pepper and an industry won't let it be seen, than if you hadn't created Sgt. Pepper. Does that makes sense? Of course I was always aware of the power imbalance in our relationship, but I would say that we were true friends. And there was also a connection that just doesn't happen very often in life, you need two people are are wholly unlike other people--to different degrees, yes, but all the same. Then they have to somehow come into the same orbit.


The shirt I wanted back because my sister gave it to me and it's a good fit and I think of my sister when I wear it, but I stopped asking about it because who knows, maybe Emma has this attachment to it and it's how she hangs on to something. I don't know. Like I said, it's all a total mystery. Ultimately, with her, it comes back to me wanting her to be okay. More than about my feelings. She was also the only person who never bored me. So, it sucks, but it's way down the list at this point.


I ran three miles each of the last two days. I am getting a little concerned about how slowly I run. Nobody is slower. When I am in that sprint mode at the end of a run, people who seem to be exerting no energy are going faster. I'm really bad at running. Good thing I'm good at climbing stairs, but I'm not good at that right now because I've lost all of that fitness from the Monument being closed. I'm anxious about going back in. It's going to be hard to climb once at first. And it puts back my visit to my cardiologist, because I can't face that guy if I have not comfortably climbed the Monument ten times the day before. I just won't be in the right head space to see him. I need to go in like a Zulu chief. Zulu warrior status won't cut it and I'm not even close to that right now.


I watched Delmer Daves's Cowboy (1958) yesterday--he's sort of the lost auteur of the Western. The part where they throw around the rattlesnake freaks me out.