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Words, interviews, letters, cards

Thursday 2/11/21

Wrote an op-ed about the value in courting rejection, which makes the point that when we are turned aside for personal reasons, we must not take them personally; that is, we have worked so hard to grow, and know who we are, that our security in our sense of self allows us to keep the personal and the personal separate, so to speak. It's a great piece, which uses the example of the never-discussed Peanuts special, You're in Love, Charlie Brown, from 1967, but I don't think it will be picked up. Wall Street Journal editor said they'd read it, but would likely detest it based upon my pitch. Not a lot of mystery how that will end up, but you also never know--that is, when you know someone else is also playing ball with you--and I have another idea ready to go with them. Several, actually.

The way this works is, I always have lists for everything. Ideas at certain times of the year, for certain years; list of op-ed ideas; list of stories to compose; books. The lists are massive. I work on many of these various ideas and works as I go about the hell that is my life right now. As I do this, new ideas and works come to me. The lists are never winnowed down to zero, and I'll have a work like "Eede Upstairs," which I know will be special, largely worked out in my head, readable enough in my mind that already it can make me cry in its power and beauty, before a word is formally written, and then without having planned anything, I'll get up and I'll write a "Mr. Ogilvie." Or whatever it might be. A work that never formally appeared on a list. The silos of futurity are always stuffed to the top, and even if they were empty, I am constantly creating newness.

On Tuesday I walked three miles, hitting the pavement right as a gentle, especially clean-seeming sort of snow began to fall. Soothing for my stress, and I did what I do as the last of the maskless people, and breathed cold, restorative air into my lungs. Yesterday I walked six miles. I need to do more cardiovascular work. Stairs, runs, hill sprints. I also want to change my diet, and go to the Trader Joe's and stock up on nuts, fruit, vegetables, granola, and try living off of just that for two weeks. It's imperative that I eat better. And not wait until six o'clock at night to do so.

I'd estimate that I have 300 available works of short fiction right now. That is, available for publication. Short doesn't necessarily mean short--many are 3000, 4000, 5000 words long. I am worried that already, this early in life, I am at a point where even if everything worked out and I get to where I want to be, that even the most dogged completist couldn't read everything I've written within their lifetime, with just what I've done to date. When you factor in everything--and I'm not even including the millions of letters. My body of work, somehow, is larger--longer--than the cumulative time I've spent on this earth. If that makes sense. As a paradox.

This is Tuesday's Downtown segment, which was about people who eat up the space at the grocery store; interests that a person might possess which indicate they suck a little less; Howard Hawks' 1952 film, The Big Sky; and a recently unearthed Yardbirds concert tape fro 1968. Here is a short interview I gave last night on Wisconsin Public Radio. Went as I expected it to go. People have expectations. They are very limited expectations. The expectation is mediocrity. Roteness. A simple person with simple, cliched things to say. Questions are written, questions are read. There's no thinking in the moment, no changing it up on the fly, no reacting to what the other person is saying. I'm not going to match your expectations. I'm not going to sound or be like all of your other guests are like. I will not talk like them, think like them. I won't move at their verbal and mental pace. I won't be serving up bromides that anyone else can and does say. If you just stick to a script, and have those prescriptive expectations, you'll be overpowered, the contrast between us will jar.

As I write on here--or even before I do--I wonder if I should be honest. If I should illumine how something works. What it looks like from my perspective. Because I know the way everyone else does things is to act like all is hunky dory, and show (often falsified) gratitude. But I do not think that is the road for me. If I'm truly to make a difference, to impact this world and change it, I still think truth is the way I must go, is the wheel to which I have tethered myself in making my course. I think that's my value. My utility. Nothing is helping me out right now or getting me anywhere, so I don't see the rhyme and reason of getting on my knees and saying that something was what it wasn't, or not providing that illumination. I think the illumination is ultimately more valuable, just as I believe it is what will propel me to where I need and want to be. I also think I'm the only person in society who takes this course. And to this degree.

But you can't have a segment with me like you do with all of your other guests. Well, you can. It's just not the best way to go. You have to be prepared, and you need to bring it at the top of your game. What is often going to be the result anyway is a large discrepancy. My segments--or my part of any segment--will always be dynamic and in perpetual flux. They're like jazz pieces made in the moment. Having six questions in front of you and simply reading them and not adapting as we proceed isn't the way to go. I can do it, and I can do a lot more of it, and it's just a reality of doing these things, and it always will be. But it's like with Orson Welles. He was always Welles with his interviewers. When he has someone engaging him on a different level, though, it's easier. I can tell that he's not trying to be patient in the same way. That he's less frustrated, though his gracious and good nature means that he won't show it at those other times. It's not really a problem, per se--and you appreciate when someone reaches out and people are nice. Not to be taken for granted. Especially for me. I do look at everything though as a work being created, and how to best do that. Then again, there are different formats, forums, contexts, aims.

I also worry--it terrifies me--that as the world seems to regress more every day, and I grow more every day, that there is less of a place for me in this world every day. I already have no one. I see such mindlessness and simplicity everywhere I turn.

I wrote a feature yesterday for The Daily Beast on the 1981 film, My Bloody Valentine, which was very strong. The endless array of voices. Tonal leanings. The piece covers Zola, Stanley Roper, James Whale, Pascal, Eric Cartman, John Lennon, Black Manta, Abbott and Costello, the Donner Party, Jesus. I really respect my editor there. So professional. Really right on it every time. Thorough. Knowledgeable. Versed in a lot. And I think they manage a great deal of material and correspondence at once.

Anyway: WSJ went as I expected it would. Only getting the same boilerplate response of late, too. Sent the piece--with a quick fix--to the New York Daily News, but they recently used me, so that's unlikely. I had sent it to The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Washington Post. I'll send it to the NY Post, but this guy simply likes to be really gruff and dismissive. Which doesn't really bother me--it's a response. A considered one? Eh--not really. But something could work out. I sent the WSJ editor another idea. It was about the liberal bandying about of the term Nazi--liberal as in excessive, not political party. And pertained to Orson Welles and the seventy-fifth anniversary of The Stranger, which was the first Hollywood film to feature actual footage from the Nazi death camps.

On a rosier note, these are the Valentine's cards for my nephew and two nieces. Did my thing of writing them a little something. I screwed up the card of my niece who just turned two. Last year, shortly after she was born, I got my sister a card about the new baby, and I forgot to send it. But it was pink and there were hearts and I accidentally grabbed it today and wrote a note to my niece before I realized what the card was. So, I'll just tuck away that other Valentine's card for next year, allowing that I'm still here--alive, that is; would be much better to be out of here, this space, and in Rockport--and send it then.


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