Tonight has been superb.
I spent rich, fertile hours reading Miranda July, handwriting notes for stories and listening to live classical music, all while feeling very alienated from humanity and depressed about the old general human condition. The physical sense of alienation had no real root in any pertinent example so I was pretty dumbfounded and instead of thinking about it I sunk my head into a book, sucking in the words of people I respect.
Longing for an interesting night I would suggest this combination:
While listening to Mark Lanegan.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Lately at The Rumpus:
I share a wonderful interview I found with a personal hero of mine, the Belgian radical Raoul Vaneigem.
Just a random sampler.
And as always, the Rumpus has other great features too like, for instance an interview with Paul Auster and an interview with Colum McCann who just won the National Book Award.
AND! Great new stuff at The Splinter Generation too!
Other things I'm obsessing over:
Carson McCullers in general
Interviewing my friends about their most personal secrets, jumbling it up and creating new characters out of the information.
Writing a travelogue about what happens when you travel just to distance yourself from your loved ones.
Writing a long essay about the year 2001 when so much happened.
Night blooming plants.
My bookstore which today was so BUSY! And I was in the zone meaning I felt no fatigue until right this moment.
Katy (as always)
My family -- writing them long overdue letters that strive to explain myself!
Crafting my contentious memoir.
Doing interviews with people: Kate, the owner of my bookstore and then maybe this famous Beat poet, Bukowksi biographer and writer Neeli Cherkovski who comes into my store and chats with me now and again about books and poets and Heidegger.
In the winter time all I want to do is eat, read and sleep.
My 6 day workweek is almost over, and then the holiday season will begin and I'll be working 40 plus hour weeks and wrapping more presents that even Santa can fit in his sack.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Aside from having some kind of cold-like symptoms most of the month, I've just been up to my ears in paper and ink, wallowing in trying to perfect the most nuanced fantasies. Failing that, I'm just going to say what I want and what I think might help others enjoy themselves better.
I'm gonna try to stand outside a lot today and get some Vitamin D because I just read it might be the miracle vitamin of our early Millennium.
The rain came yesterday but not for long. I longed for a voice like Mark Lanegan's to keep singing as I sat out an hour in a vacant store, as the sidewalks grew slick, as everyone I knew felt far away, enclosed in hermetically sealed houses, drowning in their own fantasies.
Perhaps whiskey chais were in order? Or bad movies?
But instead I curled up with a laptop and peppermint tea and kept revising things that I think I've been revising for at least a year. Maybe longer. I realize my stories are often past that fabled 5000 word mark that so many magazines adhere to. Which makes me suspect I have the promiscuous, enthusiast's heart of an undisciplined novelist.
I also had a creative revelation walking back in the rain last night. But these revelations, when they're creative ones, feel more like a long-delayed raking of the mind's coals, uncovering volatilities that you wanted to shortchange, delay, or quench. But you can't. It's why writers write, because they can't do much else.
Which reminds me of the interview with Paul Auster that the Rumpus ran a few days ago.
Oh but the revelation was that the two prospective novels I've been plotting are actually too similar in plot and are actually like mirror narratives to each other -- and so what I need to do, in all integrity, is combine them in the same book. Which will make for a huge, fun, sloppy project.
I'm reading and almost finished with The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. Which she wrote at 23. Which is beautiful and wonderful and radical in ways that few books are. Her life is no less intriguing than her books, mostly because of the almost unimaginable pains and setbacks she faced, both phsyically and emotionally.
But just as interesting is her wily Bohemianism, her revolt against the conventions of the South, and her embrace of subterranean beliefs and passions. The aesthetics of the black-listed, the black market, and the dark recesses.
Along the same lines as McCullers, I watched a movie called The Little Foxes written by Lillian Hellman, a black listed film director. Quite captivating and upsetting.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The inspiration has struck like a cheap punch to the jaw.
I found a 1935 Indian-Head Nickel tonight, and I said, fuck, I work full time, I have no normal ambitions, I write almost full-time, I'm constantly broke and it's time for "unpublished" authors like myself to undertake "book tours" -- so if you read this blog, consider myself coming to your town, to your little house, via Greyhound sometime next Spring and reading "unpublished" portions of a Novel In Progress in your living room. . .
I suppose I'll soon be asking for very nominal "donations" ?????? We'll see how that plays out!?
This is the kind of hackneyed thing that will pay for itself, I suppose. . .
Thanks for your anticipated help!!!!!!#@$%@#%@#%
More details to come!!!!!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I was pleasantly surprised to find at Tin House Books Blog this stirring appreciation of Kenneth Patchen's The Journal Of Albion Moonlight.
J.C Kallman, the author, refers to Moonlight as a "pivotal" book for him. As it was for me. And for many I've given it to. Because it used to be I would find copies of it and give it away. I'm not sure if they all loved it, but I'm sure most of them did.
I think it's an important book, a unique and maddening and ponderous book all at once. But utterly beautiful and imperfectly honest, a vision wrenched from the soul, a shrapnel stew of vexation and bloody passion. You can pluck hundreds of sentences from it that are among some of the most moving sentences you've ever encountered.
It was written in 1941 by a working-class pacifist poet, the son of a Youngstown steel mill worker.
But tonight my loquaciousness is at a minimum because I'm drugged on heavenly homemade borscht.
I'm not sure I've quoted this paragraph here before, but I think it's something of a miracle and acts as a template for all journeys.
It's on the second page of Albion Moonlight:
Very well. We knew we had no other course but to get away with all attainable speed. A light rain had fallen in the night, and morning brought the drizzle to storm proportions. Our coats were wet through as we sogged out of New York on the first leg of our trip. That a great distance separated us from our goal we knew; that we were in danger of destruction at any hour of the day and night we knew; what we did not know was near madness we would be; how alone; how defenseless: how beset we were with what we had heard, with what we had been taught -- this especially we did not know.
As with many authors, it was Henry Miller who first led me to Patchen by way of an essay he wrote about him that you can now read here, albeit with an awkward background photo pattern.
Good night now.
Good night now.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I always wanted to attach photos to words and location names that weren't factually accurate. It was part of my project, DecoVerite, which I'm trying to revive as a methodology, a mythology, a poeisis. I wanted to send postcards that were total lies: local venues, streetcorners, San Francisco locations masquerading as locales from distant lands. Assemble tourist guides for areas where nothing, conceivably was happening. All of these ideas happened the day I lost my architecture assistant job. And recently I found photos, randomly, in my computer that I've culled for the notes below.
I took unnecessary side-streets the other night.
I was reviewing October derelictions, autumnal missteps. I also wanted to remember everything that had happened to me in the City. But mostly I was in a meditative mood and I believe solely in meditation in action, mostly on foot or by the pen or the bottle.
Moments when, at the sun-stroke of morning when the sky was pierced with nearby children's cries, I held my stomach and wondered whey I did those things the night before. I'm like a wedding planner who always shows up at funerals.
The beginnings of a fever started pulsing behind my ears. But it wasn't anything except the cabin version.
I had a rendezvous, but it wasn't for an hour. My route always begins the same, down the flat street, to the corner of that mysterious and beautiful warehouse with the tawny bricks and the stained windows and then downhill on the edge of the roaring, Mission-penetrating traffic. From the top of the hill, downtown looks like a whole other city away, a place where things are long and straight and made of green glass reinforced with million dollar steel. Where you can't even imagine how the flotsam must heap in the thin streets that race between the tall and long structures.
The shoeshine guy has closed up shop.
The Indian pizza smell dominates everything.
The Outer Mission has become my galaxy, for better or worse, going on a few years now. Which means I eat a lot of cheap Chinese food, Thai food, Indian food and Cambodian food.
I wonder at the chain-link fences guarding grassy lots, fences that have multi-colored twisty-ties on them.
I wanted to be out there, a helpless satellite under the yellow moon, walking on wide, unlit sidewalks that pedestrians don't much care for despite the cleanly-cropped houses with their clearly-demarcated edges.
Once, I find myself on the backside of a familiar establishment, like the grocery store, but the back is all broken mortar and stinking vents and little fenced-off alleys where all the carts are corralled like pigs. Clearly, I'm on a sidewalk that isn't favorable for most walkers. It feels like it's the wrong end of something, an access road, a backdoor, a trapdoor.
It was the same in the Excelsior, but more extreme: for instance, the Safeway was next to the Mortuary, and instead of shopping carts, there were rat corpses, abandoned cars and men in the bushes hunting for lost needles, as the pink neon flickered in the red fog.
I find places to photograph the moon.
Of course, it doesn't look like anything. Just a ball of hot butter above the cracked ramparts of crowded apartments.
The other day I walked to work as I always do. It takes five minutes.
I make the same left turn. I see the same dogs, the same happy people. This time, and for the second day in a row, inside of a second-story, street-facing window, a woman was singing opera while a man played the piano. Thin, aqueous curtains obscured them. I couldn't tell if there was an audience. There was an amber, archival light suffusing that room. It was comforting, even more so by the fact this was at least the second day in a row they were performing. And all the stoops were strewn with rotting pumpkins as the opera wafted out in the night, loud enough to be mistaken for a radio turned to eight.
And not just because of the heat I wanted to be out.
It was more the smells that drag me to certain parts of town, that unearth undying memories. Smells that make me think of being freshly landed in this city with all the excitement of a virgin or an astronaut. Walking down Capp Street, on the part where it's just a dark, shallow canyon flanked by docile Victorians and a perpetually unused parking lot and a stoop where businessmen sit and drink beer and talk on the phone, I always wonder what I might be stepping in, but actually it's clean and then suddenly it's bright.
It's 22nd street where old businesses congest even as new chains are emerging.
I walk to the corner where I used to live, I am full of scenes and intimations from Erick Lyle's book, as well as a surge of memories from that interesting year and a half I lived on that house on the street flush with the piss-stained sidewalk, the people fucking in their cars, the men smoking drugs in my doorway. The frozen yogurt store is still there. And so is the Latino bar, El Trebol. And the Buddhist temple that long ago took residence in the old Gothic-looking Episcopalian church.
I realize I never went inside the temple. I never felt reverential enough. I always felt like a tourist.
I did used to walk passed the temple, to the corner of 22nd and Valencia and admire the weird things that always ended up on the window ledges of the boarded-up Driscoll's funeral home. There was something there I grabbed once and I think I've since lost it. I can't remember what it was except that I was reading Jean Genet on the toilet that morning and thinking about how my landlord was going to turn that funeral parlor into an overpriced hipster bar. Since going to press, the mortuary remains closed.
The other thing I remember, and also lament never actually getting documentation of it, was that there was a sign next to the door of the mortuary. It was an oval-shaped porcelain sign inlaid with a flowery mandala in the center of which were the words, Tomorrow Farm.
How appropriate? How morbid? How Honest? Who knows, but I neither photographed the sign nor swiped the sign, even though both were viable options.
But that night I went walking, I saw everyone sipping wine under extinguished heat lamps at a place that used to be called The Last Supper Club and is now called Beretta. The beauty of everyone's arms, probably still warm to the touch even as cobalt dusk rubs away to a total black.
The other night we were in costumes, just the two of us. She was the missionary, I was primitive man. And after fetching candy, we found ourselves on top of a mountain, alone, one that is parched and red and lunar and toasted a sleepy Halloween without anybody in sight. A bench on top of it provides an unimpeded night view of the dark and sparkling city, all the rows of candy houses, splashes of shiny water far away, and shiny forest even further.
It's a challenge to the landscape to be the only two people in costumes for miles around. Or if you happen to find costumed people staggering down the unlit sidewalks, stragglers from some long-dead party, you have to wonder what brazen mishaps they've gotten themselves into, just to be so far from the conventional circuits. On that cool night summit, nothing could see us so we could do what we wanted, we could say the strangest things about things we've accidentally remembered that have no bearing on the lives we have now.
Being lost in San Jose, dragging my luggage in a shopping cart from one forlorn depot to another.
Being alone in an empty church on a rainy day in Buenos Aires, thinking about love I had given up on, and pages I wanted to fill with all the details of my loneliness.
The candy was gone fast; the night was cooling; I found I was talking aloud about things she had never known.
Monday, November 2, 2009
I'm drinking a coffee float at nearly ten at night and listening to Dead Moon's Dead Moon Night-Thirteen Off My Hook. In a little bit, we're gonna go climb the hill with its hidden garden staircases, its parched lunar landscape and admire the All Soul's Day full moon. What we did on All Soul's Day was active, sun-lit, muscular.
We went down to Alemany Farm and spent part of the afternoon constructing a road of mulch, an activity that required lots of pitchforking, wheelbarrowing and raking. Seemingly simple, seemingly tedious but then we got to harvest the last tomatoes of the season -- orange-red bombs of tart sweetness -- while our muscles thrummed in the dying light.
Update: we didn't climb the hill, we went to Alamo Square Park and stared at the moon and heard bats in heat surrounding our heads and talked about communes until 3 a.m.
I woke up with a bad taste in my mouth from October, so I ran in the dry, November heat -- an odd phrase to say -- until I coughed up party gunk. Gunk from Chicago, from Halloween, from pre-Halloween, from the compulsion to only live in festival-time. How to break habits in favor of adventure? Constantly asking myself that, constantly asking myself the same questions and wondering whether they are worth asking or better worth shelving.
I've been slipping in and out of fevered note taking but cannot confine myself to one river of thought. The novel I'm etching out is slightly halted after my excited reading of Erick's Lyle's punk-pastiche-history-memoir of S.F. pre and post dot-com bust: On The Lower Frequencies.
Really it's about a time when people still wanted San Francisco to be for the working class, the artists, the punks, the squatters, the poor, etc.
I'm remembering thanks to him, that most of what I want to do in my novel is to tie in personal history with the larger mystique of Bay Area history, and not that I need to drown in research but just discuss simple things, like the history of Cayuga Gardens, or the high crime rate in McClaren Park or the fact that underneath 6th street there are tunnels, or the fact that if you look at old footage from the '89 earthquake you can see, despite the surrounding wreckage, the dirty windows of my old Oakland warehouse still intact and gleaming in their sepia-wash glory.
When you come to live in a city, how many ghosts do you inhale without even knowing it? That's the question of October.
If nothing else read Lyle's book for a completely raw look at what cities are like when you extract all the suburban pretensions, when they become places where people just want to live, where ruins are habitable and where, when it comes down to it, what matters is not having to spend your life paying off for basic necessities like coffee and friendship and music.
I don't like talking about dreams but lately my subconscious has been in upheaval. Today I woke up with sickly dreams of guilt, not just your usual guilt, but something I prefer to call "wisdom-guilt": guilt about not trying to be wise enough.
This philosopher I've been reading compulsively, Cornelius Castoriadis enjoys contrasting in many of his works how the Ancient Athenians viewed the world compared to the Modern West. One of the distinctions he makes is how the purpose of life by Athenian conceptions was for wisdom and beauty and today the purpose is happiness, both collective and individual and usually based on prosperity, excess and financial surplus.
Perhaps, an over-simplification but he backs it up with compelling scholarship.
For instance, I admitted in last night's dream that I was stealing money from the store I'm working at. Why? To fund a trip by camel to a magical lagoon that has pearls at the bottom of it that are worth more than most human souls.
Who was to join me on the trip? Many of the guys I spent cavorting with a little over a week ago at Al Capone's old nightclub, The Chevy Chase, in the Chicago English countryside region. At least to me, it resembled the English countryside. But inside it was like a German dance hall with a polka band in the balcony and rumors of smuggling tunnels that burrowed all the way to the Chicago River.
And then even before that dream: some volatile, vinegar concoction that you pore into aquariums in order to change the colors of the fish, merely for fleeting entertainment.
I remember a phrase from that dream: "Look my love, blue and white are the colors of control, always remember that."
I woke up with the urge to run. In the odd November heat.