Thursday, July 31, 2014

taking apart the Changeling


What did I do today? Well, I rewrote a dozen or so paragraphs from the Changeling--a novel by Joy Williams. That took up most of my morning into the early afternoon.

Why? Because it destroyed me last week is why. I read it in one sitting. Five hours it took me and I couldn't put it down. (I'M NOT BRAGGING. It's not that thick.) And for an hour after I was through, it felt as though I'd been involved in a physically/emotionally violent incident. Fresh complexes hello! I couldn't walk right. I couldn't talk right.

What I really wanted to do was talk about it. But didn't have anyone to talk to. Which is usually the case when it comes to things like this. The looks I get when I want to talk about a book! God. Like I should get over myself. There's no one I know who's read it anyway. I mean I know a couple people who mean to--who've had the book on their shelves for years! But good luck with that. Good luck with the Magic Mountain and the Goldfinch and Infinite Jest. Tell me about it over tea sometime.

Why did I rewrite the paragraphs? To see what it must've felt like to write them of course. Although I realized, like immediately, that these things can hardly be a straight shoot. The paragraphs in the Changeling are heavily manicured. A no brainer, yes. But seeing that taught me something, too. That overwriting is a key; as well as a constant repositioning of things... That the editing process is where actual craft is born--extracted like gems in a cave... That the whittling and chiseling is the refining of raw elements aka 'the purge'. Optimum cohesion equals obsession. Like what's the joy of driving a nice car if the interior's cluttered with dust and a million gum wrappers? Redundancies...

Even the most organized purging...it's like the ice block before it gets hacked into a swan, or better yet-- an ice skating Yeti couple mid-fling and snatch. A hairy visual indeed! And a cold one! Brrrr. It's similar to a fetus finding its features in the womb. Raw potential being culled from the bones and blood of its mother. All guided by a blueprint. A seed. A technique that furls alive through phases. Enough with the metaphors! Okay, okay. (I didn't ask you to come here ya know.)

I'm pasting an example of today's efforts below. To show that I'm not just full of ass talk:



    “I wish I was pretty, “ Franny lamented, yanking at the flowers in a careless way.
    “It is not for human beings to be pretty, Franny,” Thomas said. “We have language and intelligence, which has to be enough. We must leave the prettiness to the animals.”
    Timmy pounced at a lizard near Lincoln's foot, jarring the table.
    “In one of the Greek accounts of creation,” Thomas went on, “the god Epimetheus was given the responsibility for distributing the ingredients of biological creation among all the creatures. He lavished everything upon the wild animals, beautiful fur and feathers, gracefulness and form, strength and agility. By the time he came to man, he had run out of desirable characteristics. Man was left with just weakness and ugliness. It was his brother Prometheus who gave man dominance to keep him from shame.”
    “I don't mind being ugly,” said Tracker, “but I won't be weak.” (187) – (here we go again with the historical wisdom incorporated into a character's knowledge-base which produces the effect of making the character likable by making the character smart/educated, applying learned knowledge into a conversation and also setting a precedent, moving narration along with a story of doom and creation as a parallel to amplify things to come with the shape-shifting mystery of the children. There's also the timeless commentary regarding humans in general. None of this appears to be diatribe. It's tucked within the character's voice.)


The commentary that follows in bold is mine. The take. The idea is to absorb without imitation (which IS flattering, yes but, no) so I write everything down: the paragraphs, my thoughts, and then try forget about it. I mean it's the direct equivalent of doing calculus for fun. I realize that. 

I'm going to take a shower now and join the party known as being alive and healthy in America. If anyone reads his beside me then hello! Welcome! And Goodbye!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

the Believer

My interview with Ken Baumann is featured in the June issue. 


Monday, June 16, 2014

those pop quiz assassins


I've become acclimated the three-hour time difference between the West and East coast. I've become a morning person! Waking up at seven every morning whether responsibilities call for it or not. Teeth brushed, I have my coffee by eight. And I'm hardly counting back in threes anymore. It's eight here, it's five there. I wonder if the sun's up yet. So and so must be sound asleep. It feels like I have a head start. An early riser in America. When I'm productive, in my head, the days leaps by so fast. I'm usually in bed by midnight. When it's only nine in LA. To think, for years I couldn't sleep before 2. I was a night owl, getting an average of 5-6 hours sleep every night. It's more like 7 now. I'm sure this is good for me. I've had more energy to read, which puts my mind in a place where words are easier to reach. I'm much more talkative than I used to be. But there are also more people to talk to.

I had a horrible dream last night. The one credit shy of graduating nightmare. The end of semester assessments were being doled out to my class, although there was no one there but me. I didn't find this strange. The teachers liked me. We were friendly. I was handed my test score, but the number seemed low. I was ashamed! Something like 23? I hoped this was enough. I didn't say anything. Then a teacher pulled me aside gently talked to me about my test score. He pulled out my actual test. It was streaked with red ink. Xs, slashes. Page after page. Murder was the math that it gave me.

I felt deficient. Dumb. As usual per the story of my academic life, I hadn't studied. I would have to repeat the class to graduate. I was going to be left behind! I tried to bargain with my teachers who liked my personality. One point away! I pleaded. Just one point! Can't you let it slide? They considered, but the air of hopelessness followed me into my waking life. Writhing around in my sheets, I thought: retest! I'll study and take it again! Please don't let me fall behind! Give me the point! and then I saw the sun in my window and thought: oh, school was a long time ago. I'm done with school. Thank god. Although a haze of deficiency has stuck with me all morning. Of being an underachiever.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

the visitor


He startled me
an intimate embrace in bed.
An invisible,
physical,
wraithlike body
lay underneath me
in the darkness of my room.

My first reaction--terror.
My heart raced.
I suppressed an urge
to rise and scream.
A secondary instinct,
pared with my depraved
    isolation
gave this apparition a chance.

Its presence gave off no sense
of violence in its submission.
Arms irrelevant,
its face pressed mine
sharing with me
--the most tender kiss.
He gave no sound.
The fabric of my pillow
rustling underneath me.

I gave sound:
    breath
My chest pulsing.
Its bulge shifted
into hollow mass
to take me
in and fill me
with connection
oblivion.

My head held light,
neck taught,
legs irrelevant,
afraid to sink,
and suffocate.
The tear-streaked fabric
I wake to every day
smelling of sweat.

We pressed the black
comfort of our lips,
phased the world
into a painless nothing.
A silent static.
Ageless,
in our prime.

Tight
effervescent
particles.
Black static.
Condensed
essence.
Hairless, 
without bone.
Of no temperature. 

(A ghost? Perhaps a guide forged by the the rolling smoke screens--of my persistent distress--once, a thousand times, determined to phase through and reach me. Hope. A soft infinity released, surpassing emotions, love or elation. And all with the strength to shock me into a state of paralysis.
Had he been in the mood.)

Simulate in similar
situations of release.
The complete withdrawal
and amalgam of power.
Chaos channeled.
A celestial spherical space.
Rotating endlessly
behind my eyes.
Without meat,
Without mind.

I became static.



Monday, May 12, 2014

blueish-gray & nowhere to go


I dreamed a flying dream! I don't know how I managed to remember, having only had six hours of sleep (since going deep enough to stick the details usually involves the tail-end of a sleep marathon, 10 hours of solid, maybe 8). It's been so long. But the escapade stuck to my brain like a hundred dollar bill sticks to a well-worn shoe on a cruddy Brooklyn sidewalk.

That happened once actually. When within one week's time I found $100 in front of my favorite Chinese BBQ place, $40 on a Chelsea art walk and $5 on the way to the G on Metropolitan. Right in front of that diner that served a spectacular Thanksgiving plate year round. I swear I could eat stuffing with cranberry sauce once a week. And gravy'd potatoes. Sweet potato casserole with toasted marshmallows. My stomach's growling! New York was bribing me to stay after I lost a job. There were definitely connections that needed to be made in LA. But that's another story.

Back to the flying dream. This one was peculiar and a bit morbid. Somehow I got it in my mind--I could fly. Whether or not I knew I was dreaming, I'm not sure; but I knew I was doing something impossible. I was really trying to make it work! It always starts with a few slow jumps doesn't it? So I jumped, jumped, STUCK IN THE AIR and floated. Arms wobbling between light thoughts or sinking with doubt. When my toes touched ground I kicked off, going higher and higher each time, until I finally caught air and SAILED through the sky like some fucking badass.

At some point I was en route to a 'far off destination.' Can't remember where exactly, I'd like to think I was circling the globe like Superman trying to save Lois Lane from being buried alive in her car. But halfway through the journey I lost my confidence and started sinking closer and closer to the ground, until I was back to bouncing and hovering. Each bounce taking me ten feet vertically.

I bounced like that on a farm for a while before I realized I could no longer fly and I was stuck in the middle of freaking nowhere. Like a damn chicken. The abundant painted trees were a nice touch (if I do say so myself). Without those to frame the scene I might as well have been staring at the lines in a notebook, me as a doodle melting away at the first sign of rain.

The landscape was abandoned, with a wash of gloom as usual. A matte about-to-rain sky turning everything a hostile blueish-gray. I wasn't scared. But I was lonely. The only person in the world, stranded on a gloomy farm. No horses, crickets. Nothing.

Silence can scream louder than sirens in some parts of the mind. No earplugs in sight. Even a sense of panic would be nice in situations like this, since the magnified throbs of heartbeats could blast white noise at the horrendous curse of screaming silence. Lost. And then we wake and wonder where we've been. Hopefully not on some damn farm feeling too heavy to fly.

Friday, May 9, 2014

B is for bad idea


I went to my first al anon meeting the other day. My friend, "Betsy" has been mentioning it to me for weeks. Asking me to give it a chance. She goes to deal with deep-set family problems. Her mother is a schizophrenic, homeless, heroin addict. I mean Jesus. I decided to check it out, support her, maybe learn something about the world. And well, sometimes I drink a bottle of wine before bed. But not every day or anything...

10-step signs about God being a rock for unhealthy addictions said I was in the right place. I was nervous when I got there early and didn't see anyone. Then people trickled in, mostly clean-cut women with bangs and colorful shoes. The epitome of Silver Lake locals. A couple shifty-eyed fidgeters. A twitchy man who could've benefitted from a wet comb and a Xanax. I sat in the back feeling extremely out of place.


When Betsy arrived she sat beside me, said hi with her hand on mine. She moved to a chair in the huddle when the meeting started. I followed reluctantly. The energy of the people around me, mercy. The group took turns reading a paragraph a piece from a tattered hardcover adorned with a shattered-glass type collage of sad, strung-out looking faces. A shitty story about a lady who lost both her parents to drugs and booze. The dad split first, then the mom. Then the poor thing lost her boyfriend to heroin! And she was an alcoholic!

When the reading concluded, the room took turns speaking. Five minutes a piece about the chaos surrounding their lives. It was extremely personal. Some cried. Most vented stories about relationship dysfunction. I didn't move or speak. Staring straight ahead. It was like waiting for a church service to be over. At some point Betsy was sobbing. I crunched her shoulders in an effort to be sympathetic but she shook me off. She needed to cry I guess. I didn't take it personally.

Outside, Betsy and I talked for a few minutes about unhealthy relationships with narcissistic dick heads before we said goodbye. She had a lunch date and I decided to break my latest fast by walking across the street to a familiar brunch place that's been pretty hit-or-miss these days. I splurged on fish tacos anyway.

(this would be a good place to insert a story)

It took two me hours to open that to-go box. But I was determined to live a long life and be healthy! My problems have been furiously kicking my ass for a while but they weren't going to break me!

When I opened the box, the smell of stale fish made me tense. It that wasn't bad enough---THREE FLIES FLEW OUT. I threw everything in the trash. CLUNK. Guzzled a chia kombucha and thought: that's what I get. I didn't even call the place and complain about it. My ability to give a crap has gone fishing til next spring.

The flies were a catalyst. I completely lost my mind. All of the sudden it felt like the blood in my heart was beating through a compound fracture! In a desperate attempt to neutralize what was happening, I texted a friend some lop-sided nonsense. He did his best to help but I felt like a horse's ass. It's only then that I realized, even in this emotional shut down phase--I'm still an empath! I essentially absorbed ten tons of negative energy in that meeting and the weight of it was killing me! Being a shut in makes so much sense. But the loneliness...

Going back to the 'being emotionally shut-down' thing. Imagine...having the inability to feel. Going through motions. Intellectualizing fucking everything. Sad in theory. Tired therefore...I am not angry because my voice is neutral. I know what difficult is. I know what stress does to my shoulders. It creases my brows. My hands are clenched. Relax.

The only nostalgia that makes sense anymore is breezes. Where will the year-round, chlorophyll-rich breezes be in New York dammit... Not that anyone should take that attitude.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

natural disasters


An earthquake rippled underneath me last night just before midnight! Lasted about 5 seconds but my heart's pulse was obvious; its thumping erratic. A surge of adrenaline! I might as well have downed three quick shots of espresso! Fight or flight--my body prepared itself to embrace the impact of collapsing walls if necessary. 

The act of being shaken is so dramatic. I guess the shocks people in the automobile industry count on this. It also explains the absence of “shake you” rides at amusement parks. I mean the rides shake, but that's usually a bad sign, right? Especially if they're meant to whoosh you around in giant loop d loops. I hate roller coasters. But one last earthquake before I hit the road ain't bad. Although I'm not technically driving to New York. 

My tickets have been booked. The countdown begins. I'm thrilled and nervous, giving away furniture, minus a couple bookshelves. I'm keeping all my books this time. Fuck it, I've accumulated an excellent collection this go-around. I'm not giving these babies up like I always do, even though they weigh so damn much. The gifted Kindle (collecting dust in the other room) can bite me for now. I've gone completely digital everywhere else. I will enjoy my paper pages as I enjoy the texture of cheese on my tongue. These tactile experiences help us appreciate our bodies. Our fingers, eyes, tongue, teeth. Every inch receptive to sensual fulfillment. 

On the minus, the smell of a rotted carcass led me to the stove yesterday and today. I thought I'd found the source when I pushed the stove from the wall and found a tiny mouse, attached and dead, on a sticky sheet of glue. I wrapped it in a bag and tossed it, but the smell persisted, and dramatically increased the next day. I pushed the oven again and found a long-dead pocket gopher, as big as my hand, attached to another trap.

There's nothing so visceral as the smell of death in your home. It's an invasion. A reminder of how all things expire, more often under violent, rather than peaceful, circumstances. I'll take these natural disasters as a sign that my time in LA has expired. The extra month here is a curse. But I will remain calm and make the best of it.

Ps. Cinco de Mayo was fun this year.


Share It