Friday, December 31, 2004

This evening, I walked around Williamsburg, chasing the setting sun towards the river, giddy, chasing that 2004 out of town, blowing smoke in its face, pushing it out of mine.

It felt so awesome to watch the beautiful red ashes of this year flare across the sky, knowing that it is over. Normally, I never get to excited about New Year's. In the past, I have not really had reason to desire such drastic change, the hope that a new calendar year could provide. But I am quitting the Strand, starting over. 2005 is going to be a Strand free year except for the one day I am going in, Sunday, to quit. I really feel like things are going to happen, not really sure what, but just different things, and this has me so excited. This year, 2004, I was in a coma, and I am coming out of it. These are the rays of light this year still somehow managed to provide, the rays of light that helped guide me, that encouraged me not to give up, and to continue to revere art and art-making. Thank you all of you.

1. Yayoi Kusama at the Whitney Biennial and at Robert Miller
2. Queer Fist's RNC actions and all those groups that livened up the march
3. On Kawara at David Zwirner
4. Philip Roth
5. Hernan Bas at Daniel Reich
6. The Patriot Act performing in Erin's backyard. Your friends make art, people you know. You do. You can.
7. Le Tigre's Halloween show
8. Bjork's Medulla
9. Destroyer's Your Blues
10. Bruce LaBruce's Raspberry Reich

Things not from this year that I discovered this year and that have sustained me: Joan Didion, John Cassavettes, Studs Terkel, David Wojnarowicz, the Shangri-las, Marcel Proust.

Things that totally sucked about this year: the Strand (see every entry from this past year), my dad, being dumped for kissing a dog, acne, getting mugged, people thinking insincerity, aviator glasses, and studded belts make you cool. See you later, fuckface, 2004.
There is always something pathetic in a man's desiring of another man. I wish this were not so, and wish it were not such an easy generalization to make, but seriously, even when a gay male likes another gay male, things can never go right, the crushee is filled with rejection (before it has occured), with guilt, and with crushing doubt. Why is it that our earlier method of desiring straight males, as erotic objects we can never have, that would never like us - why is it that we (that I, and many people I know, but mainly I), why is it that we replicate these same methods of desire when we are attracted to a homosexual, filled with frenized panic to the point where the crushee could never like you because you are a pathetic mess?

I started reading Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty today, and I cringed with how familiar the feeling was when the protaganist desired his straight male friend:

Sometimes Toby [the crushee] would have come back, and there would be loud music in the drawing room; or he was in his father's study at the back of the house making international phone calls and having a gin-and-tonic - all this done not in definace of his parents but in rightful imitation of their own freedoms in the place. He would go into the garden and pull his shirt off impatiently and sprawl in a deckchair reading the sport in the Telegraph. Nick would see him from his balcony and go down to join him, slightly breathless, knowing Toby quite liked his rower's body to be looked at. It was the easy charity of beauty. They would have a beer and Toby would say, "My sis all right? Not too mad, I hope," and Nick would say, "She's fine, she's fine," shielding his eyes from the dropping August sun, and smiling back at him with reassurance, among other unguessed emotions.

And with that passage, as spartan as it is with regards to the desire of Nick, I had horrible flashbacks to the same sort of pathetic adoration of straight males, thought to Shane Riley, to Mark F, to Keith, even thought to how I had the same sort of pathetic desire even towards fags, Ben Haber, Evan, and Christopher. Christopher, who I ran into tonight at the Metropolitan and who is the provocation of these thoughts here on desire - the provocation even though I did not exchange one word with him. And probably because of this, because we did not talk, my desire was allowed to bubble to insane proportions and I felt this pathetic feeling. I was sitting outside listening to Peter and Joe when I saw him come outside. I stared at him unseen, sighing with longing. The sight of this normal looking boy inspires the most intense longing in me, the type that makes me feel like a total pathetic loser. Tonight, the feeling of pathetic was amplified because I had written him a long gushing e-mail a while ago which he never responded to and I was embarrassed that this person, that any person, but this person especially, whom I desired so much, did not desire me also, that he never even bothered to reply to the e-mail. I don't understand, surely it must be, because he shows disinterest in me, that I want to melt into the ground at the sight of him. He is beautiful sure, but not especially so, nothing to make me be such a frenzied maniac at just the sight of him. Surely, if anything ever happened with him, the desire would vanish, my calm would be restored, and he would be just christopher, not [in the most swooning drawn-out voice possible]: C h r i s t o p h e r !

And I wanted to leave after I was done with my beer but was convinced to stay for another one, and the whole time I was drinking it, all I could think about was Christopher, and when I was done with that beer, I left the bar and Christopher was standing by the door, and I walked as slowly as I could up to the doorway, hoping he would say hello, say something, but he kept talking to his friend, and said nothing, and I made it out the door and walked home, the entire time, hoping for something cinematic to happen. But boys that don't like you don't come following you down the street, calling out your name, saying wait-up. But that could not stop me and my brain heavily influenced by too many romantic comedies, and so I kept turning back around, hoping to see him coming after me - someone that all night, did not even seem to notice I was in the same bar as him. And after one more time looking down the street before I stepped into my building, I closed the door behind me and felt so low, so pathetic, always the person desiring, always the bridesmaid and never the bride, but worse - I don't know. I know that my methods of desiring other males is skewed and I don't know if there is a way to adjust, am wondering if there is a point, if not most of the eros springs from this feeling of loserness. This is the pleasure they refer to as masochism. And I am gay, and this makes me so typical.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I don't know what I am doing, and it feels so, so good. I have known what I am doing for too long. For two years I have known that I am going to wake up and go to work at the Strand. I have known that I have to leave my house at around 1:15 everyday to get to work mildly on time. I have known that every Friday, I would receive a check for just under the amount of 250. I don't want to use the word "comfort" here because it implies some sort of poshness that my wage did not enable, some sort of happiness that the indignities of the job did not enable. I have been experiencing discomfort from the comfort of knowing what I was going to do everyday. Really, there may be about only more week of work at the Princeton Review and Monday is going to be my last day of work at the Strand, and I have no clue what the future holds, but I believe that things will work out, that I will have enough money to sustain myself when I don't have any work.

And I am daydreaming. The very real possibility of financial insecurity looming is leading me to dreams of various jobs, leading me to think, just to use a portion of my brain that has been anesthetized by not having to worry about what I am going to do with myself. At the record store tonight, I flirted with the cashier and I think this means something. I am so happy, so elevated and am not giving a shit, am loving just walking down the street in my blue peacoat and swinging my arms feeling like Sarah Jessica Parker's character or Mary Tyler Moore in the opening credits, just a girl going against the city and coming out on top.

I am not one that is big on regrets, but man, I am wondering how much more I would have experienced, what other menial jobs I might have had, how much happier I would have been, if I would have done this earlier. And still, I am not sure that it really is going to happen. I have still yet to tell the Strand, but I am so sure of my decision, am on the schedule all next week at the Princeton Review, and man, I just can't even believe that I am about to jolt my routine so much. It is so exhilarating. For two years, I have sat on my hands and the part of my brain that dreams of running away and schemes atrophied, and blood is flowing into it again for the first time in a while. Like when your foot falls asleep and you have to jump and shake your foot to get the blood going back through it, and you wiggle it and are so happy to get some blood moving through there again. That is my giddy organ right now.

I have been downloading old girl pop: Shangri-las, Brenda Lee, the Ronnettes. And yeah, some Mariah in there also. I don't know why, maybe cause I am a fag, but I don't think so, right now, this sense of freedom, this joy of doing my own thing, is only finding expression in female pop songs. What is it about the female voice and why do so many gay males love it? (see The Queen's Throat). I want to avoid reductionist psychoanalytic stuff that will point to gender longing, and instead point to the perhaps patronizing notion it is because I identify with the female assertion that is occurring (yes, even the Ronnettes are asserting independence by stating their desire) in a culture that has not allowed for it much, is the thing, this giddy assertion of independence, reveling in this world, and I don't know, I am tired, have had a few glasses of wine, and just watched two episodes of Sex and the City on TBS, so there are reasons, but this is true: that I am excited, I am quitting the Strand, and I am tossing that hat, that beret (right?) into the air, giddy and a little wowed that I can do it, I can.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

This should say something about something

So I just read that Susan Sontag died, and I let out a large gasp of shock. Fifty thousand people died in a wave and I let out no gasp, dismayed as I was by the news. I am reading Butler's Precarious Life right now, which talks about this, about how some lives come to be greivable and others don't and am feeling a mild disgust with the way my brain has come to process certain news items.

I am at the Princeton Review now and have been told of a glitch to my plan, have found out that there is probably only about another week's work of work here until March. I still think I am going to try to quit the Strand right after New Year's.
It depends on where you focus your eyes. See, at first, I had them focused on the blur of trees lining the road as we drove to the airport this morning as the sun was just about to rise. And really what I was looking at was the moon, and hopefully you saw it last night or this morning and can relate, can understand how cartoonish this full moon was. I kept imagining that it would start talking and say hello to the cows or something, so big and so yellow and so low to the ground it was. But yes, first, my eyes were focused on the foreground and it looked as though the moon which was behind the trees was racing along to keep up with our car. We kept going past more and more trees and the moon kept racing to stay even with us, also speeding past all these trees.

Then I refocused my eyes toward the office building farther back which stayed as a steady referece point, and because it did, the moon did also. It was sitting still now, just waiting to be outshined by the rising sun. Now what does this mean that our perception is so mutable? That we can see the moon as a speeding object or a static one? Is one better? Or is it better the awareness of that other to put in perspective the one? It is just where I focus these eyes that will determine what I see, what I feel.

It's easy when your eyes are presented with a frame of view that you have been conditioned to appreciate. There were lots of these frames, just about every time I was in the car either seemed to be at sunrise or dusk and there was that full moon and we drove along the Potomac to get to my aunt's house last night and saw the sky reflecting off the river. These things, easy. But every day, I am presented with things that are not as easy to process as beautiful, but more importantly, what I want to start training my eyes and my brain to do are to see things as flux, as chaos. I want to find objects to focus on to make static things mutable.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

It depends on where you focus your eyes. See, at first, I had them focused on the blur of trees lining the road as we drove to the airport this morning as the sun was just about to rise. And really what I was looking at was the moon, and hopefully you saw it last night or this morning and can relate, can understand how cartoonish this full moon was. I kept imagining that it would start talking and say hello to the cows or something, so big and so yellow and so low to the ground it was. But yes, first, my eyes were focused on the foreground and it looked as though the moon which was behind the trees was racing along to keep up with our car. We kept going past more and more trees and the moon kept racing to stay even with us, also speeding past all these trees.

Then I refocused my eyes toward the office building farther back which stayed as a steady referece point, and because it did, the moon did also. It was sitting still now, just waiting to be outshined by the rising sun. Now what does this mean that our perception is so mutable? That we can see the moon as a speeding object or a static one? Is one better? Or is it better the awareness of that other to put in perspective the one? It is just where I focus these eyes that will determine what I see, what I feel.

It's easy when your eyes are presented with a frame of view that you have been conditioned to appreciate. There were lots of these frames, just about every time I was in the car either seemed to be at sunrise or dusk and there was that full moon and we drove along the Potomac to get to my aunt's house last night and saw the sky reflecting off the river. These things, easy. But every day, I am presented with things that are not as easy to process as beautiful, but more importantly, what I want to start training my eyes and my brain to do are to see things as flux, as chaos. I want to find objects to focus on to make static things mutable.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I am going to work, and straight from there to an airport, and from there to my mom's house where I will be until Sunday. So see all of you later and have a happy life.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Okay, remember when I was talking about Gwen Stefani and the inexpressable qualities that pop music has, the power it has over us - wondering about why it was so good, if it really was, or if this was just evidence of our mystification. Well, today, Pitchfork lists Annie's "Heartbeat" as the #1 single of the year, and so I read their review of Annie's album, and this, this review is what you are going to read right now:

This reviewer says everything I half-wanted to say about the joys of pop music and says it so well. I am listening to Annie right now, and predictably appreciating it far more now that I have read Pitchfork's praising of it. It has been on this computer for a while, downloaded by Jillian, and I never paid it too much mind, but I am a whore, and now like it. The word that keeps coming through my head when I am trying to verbalize pop music is delirious - it just makes me lose my shit in a crazed, happy way. Fills me with joy. Is anyone else surprised that Destiny's Child's "Lost My Breath" isn't on this list? And not one of those awesome "Medulla" tracks made this list, what?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The storm came. [See last sentence of last entry.] It is snowing! Snow! La, la, la, I love snow, it makes me so happy. Yes, it does. Seeing it blow across the street, I think of Mad Max, a reference Nick made about how he felt like Mad Max driving across the desert, during this horrible snow storm we were driving through in New Hampshire. The analogy has never left me, it was probably always there inchoate, but now every time it snows, I am a desert wanderer, things are new. It looks so pretty passing slowly across the halo of streetlamps. Snow! La, la, la.
Remember that time when you weren't neccesarily down, but not up, just not feeling it, and a little bored with anything that this world offered, thinking that this world doesn't really have those things, or at least not for you? And I was like, no, no, don't you see, everything is great - what more could you want than this. It is cloudly, but so what? There are clouds! How is that for amazing. And I went on and on, giddy, drunk on joy, trying to make you see what I was seeing, trying to cheer you up, rally your spirits, and bring you forth into the world I knew.

Well, I am not sure if right now, I want you telling me those things because they might irritate me and make me more miserable, and no, I am not miserable, but not there, where I have been, and where I was telling you about, and I haven't felt it in a while. I sometimes will get flashes, this morning in the grocery store, laughing to Peter about something, but they go fast and don't come too often. I don't know what it is, what to do, to ride these waves out, or to do some rain dances, force a storm.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

I live like a fucking pig! I really, really did want to try to write a piece of criticism about John Haskell's American Purgatorio but cannot find the book that I just finished up yesterday in my bedroom somewhere. Now, it is not like like I live in a palaital suite where this might be understandable. My room is maybe six by ten. Maybe. It is fucking tiny, and so my inability to find a book in this space is driving me fucking crazy. There are piles of clothes everywhere, blocking the door from opening, on the floor there, under the bed - so much crap everywhere. Do you remember how bad Bonnie's room was? Or how bad Rebecca and Sara May's fishbowl was? It's like that except eight million times worse. I have to clean up and organize. I lose books so often in that mess. There are old newspapers thrown aboutm, fliers handed to me on the street, crap from my pockets. It is a firetrap waiting to set me ablaze. I am going to check out the book from the Strand tomorrow and this will be my homework assignment for tomorrow night, to write a nice critique of the book, to be intellectually engageed with what I am consuming.

My stomach feels so nice. I did sit-ups today, which I never do, and you know how when you exercise for the first time in a long time, your muscles feel sore. That is how it feels, like the day after good sex. I love this feeling. Exercise is the new internet.

Friday, December 17, 2004

went to the drugstore, fell down on my knees

I have had the last two days off. I go back to work tomorrow and now it is that moment of "Fuck, what I have done with myself?" during the twilight of my free time. Yesterday, I left my house to go to the grocery store and spent the day eating junk food and reading. Today, much of the same except I went and did some Christmas shopping.

Yesterday, I finished American Purgatorio and I had had plans to be a little reflective about it and maybe I will when I finish writing this, but you see within minutes of finishing it, I started Griel Marcus' Mystery Train, which is about rock and roll and America, and the idea of America, something I am a little obsessed with - notions of America, and I am loving it. I read the chapter on Robert Johnson today and am now listening to him. I also picked up Artforum and The New Yorker while I was supposed to be picking out gifts for family members.

I have such a hard time thinking about other people and what they might like. Really, when it comes down to it, I am totally and hopelessly self-centered. I realized that I could not for the life of me think of what my mom or my sister might like. I could only think of things I would like or do like, and thought about getting them a CD by this artist because I really love them and they should too. I have no concept of what might be considered objectively good, just what I know to be. Going shopping for other people is a repressed, a stifled shopping for yourself.

Anyways, I want to suggest that you guys drop five dollars and pick up this Winter Fiction issue of The New Yorker like I did today. By yourself an early Christmas present. It's Table of Contents are all writers I love. There is this essay by W.G. Sebald that is beautiful and meandering as all his stuff tends to be. Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons where the town of Springfield decided to take on Nelson and the bullies, and even Grandpa Simpson is enlisted. He gathers up other old folks and their weapon is pointless storytelling that quickly loses its point, jumps from one subject to the next with a long aside about who this was, and who his mother was, and what his mother said this one time at a dance to his uncle about the school, which was under construction at the time... Do you remember that episode because that is what WG Sebald reminds me so much of, and I love it. The effect is has is to sort of set you off on your own string of daydreams, thinking about past things much like his narrators. Supposedly another one of his books is going to come out posthumously this spring, and I think this may be included in that book. But yes, the issue is worth the cost just for new Sebald, but it also has AM Homes, Chris Ware, Ian McEwan, Dave Eggers, and Edward P. Jones.

Dara, my roomate, just told me that last night at karaoke, Matt and Kevin were there, and that Matt was really cute and sang cute songs. I am not sure I needed to know this. I had sort of considered joining her and Niki for the free pizza. I am glad I did not. Dara is moving out at the end of January. Jaymay is probably going to move in. I have been daydreaming a lot. My lips are chipped. I am going to Virginia on Wednesday. My hair is getting long. I love it. It is the one thing that keeps me happy, being able to twirl it nervously, or pull it stressed.
It is a cold, cold day here in New York. I have done nothing I wanted to do today. I ate nachos, and read from The New Yorker. How many strings of these days after occur before the climax occurs, before I am inspired enough to do the things I tell myself I want to do.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Labor has lost again. My co-workers voted tonight on the contract offered to us by the Strand owners. I couldn't go to the vote because I was forced to man the info desk since no one else could who wasn't at the vote. The details of the contract were not told to us before hand, and for good reason, because the details are awful and if the workers had time to mull over them without the union lawyers and reps there to push on us the bad deal they brokered, they surely would have revolted and voted no. I am shocked at how much we got our asses kicked. We lost on every single front, every single issue being negotiated. The vote was something like 11 no's and 36 yes's. Thirty-six of my co-workers wanting the couple hundred dollars backpay agreed to this with the urging of the UAW.

There is no increase in base wage. There is still an annual raise of fifty-two cents. They were able to hold ground on this, but we should have been able to increase this. Fifty-two cents?! This fucking bookstore makes money hand over fist. But now, this is not what has me sad, and wondering how they, the owners get away with this. What has be terribly sad is that our health plan was torn to pieces. If they were going to screw us on health care, we should have been able to secure a wage increase, but no wage increase, and now we are going to be paying through the nose for health. We had had a sweet health plan, one that no one else has had, and that was the one benefit to working at the Strand. It was basically free healthcare. We only had to pay two dollar co-pays for doctor visits and two dollar co-pays for prescriptions. Doctors visits now will require a $25 dollar co-pay, which for someone wondering if they can afford to do laundry this week is a lot of money. Prescriptions are now going to be between $10 and $35. And if you are picking up a couple of prescriptions, something that would have cost $4 will now easily cost $50 or $70. Plus that $25 doctor visit. That's a lot of money.

The UAW folks scared people by talking about how we had no leverage, how there was a large non-unionized staff at the store because of the high turnover. And you might think by this, that we got slapped in every way imaginable, but no, they find still one more way of rubbing our face in the dirt, something that I swear can not be legal. We get a five dollar rebate on doctors visits by bringing in our reciept to the owner. It seems like a way to discourage doctor visits, the fear of presenting your reciept to the owner. It also seems like a scheme to find out who is milking the healthcare and making the premiums go up.

The fifty two cent raise is retroactive to September 1st when our contract expired, so that will add up to a couple hundred dollars, which is nice, but not worth the costs. I am so sad that we lost so badly. It has me so hopeless about progressivism in this country, thinking about unions, about how they don't work in a service economy with people changing jobs so frequently. I imagine Nancy and Fred, the owners eating in some fancy restaurant right now, ordering more champagne, clinking their classes and toasting to themselves, congratulating themselves on crushing us so ruthlessly. We gained not one thing. We lost on every single front. This sucks. Why did you vote yes?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

You can't be in the circus if you don't go to the circus interviews, and so, I am not going to be in the circus, at least not now. Numerous people pointed out to me that it was probably a butch, tough guy culture of carnies. I thought they were probably right and also, I didn't feel like waking up early this morning. Instead I curled up under my covers, stretching, hiding and reading American Purgatorio.

Also, the circus starts right after Christmas and if I wait until the new year to quit the Strand then I can collect 2005 unused vacation and personal days, basically three weeks pay. The new plan is to make sure there is steady work for a while at the Princeton Review, try to pick up at least three shifts a week and quit the Strand and collect this pay bundle.

Making Cafe Bustelo requires far less coffee than making Starbucks coffee. I like my coffee pretty dark and normally put in at least a couple of spoonfuls for each cup, however, do that with Cafe Bustelo and you will be drinking some nasty syrupy thing that runs straight through your bowels. With Cafe Bustelo, only one spoonful is required for each cup. Although, it seems like too little, it is not, and today, I finally got it right and am drinking a nice cup of coffee.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

It's the human body made into a percussion machine that makes music good music. Is that why you love songs with handclaps? You can move your body, stomp those feet, clap those hands, and become a participant in the song. Right now, there are some amazing sounds being produced by pop music. This is delirious pop music, this stuff. You know how you felt about Kelis' "Milkshake," and "Hey Ya" - what is it that delirious pop music inspires in you to lose it and dance, is it an ecstatic embrace of the ideals of capitalism? Why does it make you, make me, so smiley?

Destiny's Child's "Lose My Breath" is one of these great songs. Yesterday, I stumbled across a whole album of delirious pop songs. I listened to Gwen Stefani's solo album at Virgin and was wowed, giddy, and dancing to the headphones. They are all downloaded now on my computer.

Download "Hollaback Girl". The rhythm is a sampled step team and it is so, so awesome. The rhythm is definitely the coolest part of the song. I want to stomp and clap listening to it, but I am listening to it on headphones because Dara is asleep next door and stomping would definitley not be the kind roommate thing to do. "Cool" is totally Cyndi Lauper. The Andre 3000 "Long Way to Go" is either good or bad, in that it is a 2004 "Jungle Fever" with samples of MLK talking. For some reason it irks me, that hip hop singers being able to date white chicks is probably not the most important race issue to be singing about, but even my own annoyance with the song, probably means that it is - that it is still an issue, that I still do glance at interracial couples and wonder about the dynamics of them, if one of the partners is not exoticizing the other, so maybe still a long way to go.

"Serious" is also awesome for the same reason that "Cool" is, it is has that silly eighties pop sound. Pop music is delivering some treasures this winter. In the next couple of days, the weather is supposed to dip into the low thirties. This will get me through this.

Friday, December 10, 2004

What in the fucking hell? This, from the Washington Post in their Best Books of 04 list, talking about Russell Banks' The Darling:

The Darling, by Russell Banks (HarperCollins). About a disillusioned and seemingly doomed woman, Hannah Musgrave, and her travails in Liberia. Yes, Hannah is white -- a point she often remarks upon -- but her Liberian world is honestly African: romantic, brutal, black and quite deadly. -- Wil Haygood

Honestly African?! Black and deadly?! This is the same type of gibber gabber that made me so frustrated with this novel, with its cloying Heart of Darkness representation of Africa. Hello, did we not read that Achebe essay telling us why this is not kosher? Besides this huge HUGE problem with the book, it is just not that good otherwise, and I am getting so irritated seeing it on so many Best of 2004 lists. Did Edward Said really die this year? Was he ever alive? What bizzaro world is this?
Last night, I watched The OC, then went to Metropolitan and hung out with David, Joe, and Peter. I then came home and Dara invited me to go out with her to the Alligator Lounge, so back out I went, ordered a beer to get my free pizza, and Joe came out also. I sang the most awful version of "Brass in Pocket" imaginable. You can always decieve yourself about your singing capabilities, thinking that you are better than you are, but when you get up on a karaoke stage and hear yourself messing up lines to a song you thought you knew by heart, hear how flat, how bad your voice is, then you realize that it was all lies you were telling to yourself, that you are a bad, if not horrible singer.

In other news, the preview for Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake is online, and it doesn't look totally awful. My fears of a Planet of the Apes abomination so far, have not materialized. This movie has to be awesome otherwise me and Tim Burton are over for good.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image. -Joan Didion

And it is not even about claiming the space as my own, but this is right, that it is the reshaping of a particular place that all the best writing does. In my past attempts at writing fiction, I have been hesitant to use real settings from my past and have instead used bland Anytowns, tried to eliminate the necessity of place from the story. Could there a more stupid way to approach writing? There was a quote from Brian Hughes, said probably half in jest a few years ago, the type of quote that only twenty year olds can drop so confidently, that there was no more awful form of writing than autobiographical writing, that the writing of technical manuals was even better. This quote and the thinking behind it have led me to avoid writing "semi-autobiographical" fiction - a terribly ugly phrase.

Proust is nothing without the sight of those church spires. Roth, nothing without Newark. Didion, nothing without California. So as a joke I started writing this story about a map of Alexandria and masturbation and one idea is leading to another is leading to another. There is no straining for what to write; there is a straining to contain it all somehow, and I am really happy with it so far. Past attempts at writing fiction have been awful, I will not hesitate to tell you. I have finished little stories and reread them, cringing, thinking how awful they were. Without a place to focus on, to eulogize - the story was a sham, having to rely on cliched phrases and sentiments since it was about no real place, but the typical town, thus producing typical prose, typical storylines and reproducing all the conventions of fiction in the process, the type of writing that I hate, yet the type that I was doing. Place frees you from plot.

After reading Roth's fiction, after reading his defense of his fiction (yes, fiction!) against all the critical writings that read his fiction as veiled autobiography, I knew what I wanted to do, saw the freedom that playing with your past gives you. I have been wavering whether I should try to write Sarasota or Alexandria (never New York - the places yet to be staked out - maybe Didion was right, it is about claiming it, colonizing it?) and ended up writing this story about a teenager which for me, I associate with Alexandria, those teen years. Last night, I felt like I got a sign to stick to this project. I opened up the new biography of George Washington, His Excellency, and Joseph Ellis writes in the first sentence about how he grew up in Alexandria, near the same part I did (he of course, doesn't mention me), but since I had been thinking of Alexandria a lot the past days, this was very exciting. And I am not sure why. I like George Washington and stare at the statue of him in Union Square everyday. I see the ties between here and there and like the potential of dealing with America as a subject. I am thinking about Whitman and how Midnight's Children dealt with the birth of India and the Smashing Pumpkins and how to integrate these concerns into something coherent, something even enjoyable. I have to stick to the project. The only difference between good artists/writers and us (both you and I) is the level of commitment, so let's quit doing it half-assed and commit ourselves to these things, set aside time each and every day.


Yesterday, I talked to a couple people at work about bankruptcy, heard about stories of friends who have done this or that, or even a friend of a friend. I finally opened up the pile of bills that I have been negleticing/throwing away for months to add up my credit card debt to discover it is much higher than the 3,000 that I was prediciting, that it is in fact 5,629.42. Please do not ask me what I have to show for this amount. I don't have a car. I did not go on a European holiday. I don't have a VCR, let alone a DVD player. My computer was bought when I was in high school. I wear the same clothes everyday. Really, I think that is five grand worth of burritos right there is what that is.

Plus I still owe about two hundred to Sprint, which I can't even find the bill for even though they send me one about every other day. So, yeah that is an astronomical amount considering my current (lack of) wages. Time to call the bankruptcy lawyer and find out real details. First, a long hot shower with loud, loud, motherfucking loud music. Bankruptcy! USA! Bankruptcy! USA!

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

When you don't wear headphones walking around the city, you make yourself more open to contact. Sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad - but either way, it is probably better for you than no human contact. This morning I went to the optomotrist to tell them that they did not give me the right prescription and on my way there, waiting for the NR at Union Square, there was man standing a couple feet away from me, muttering dirty things. This was a middle-aged business looking guy and I didn't think he was talking to me. I was reading my book, an excellent book that I am going to tell you all about in depth when I finish it because right now it is the best writing I have read by an unknown in so long. Philip Roth and Kafka are no surprise to read, to be astounded by their goodness, but this John Haskell and his American Purgatorio is amazing. More about it later, but anyways, I am reading this and so sort of ignoring everything else around me because it is so good, but then the man walks past me and I look up to see him licking his lips in a crude manner. Then with that gesture, I was able to understand his diry mutterings. When he had stopped a few feet past me, I looked at him to see him staring at me. I turned around and moved further the opposite way down the platform, because it was ten-thirty in the goddamn morning and I was reading something that made me feel clean and the sun was out, and here was this relic of the end of nights, of unhampered desire looking for something before the sun comes up. It was anachronistic to encounter this mid-day.

Shortly after this, a middle-aged woman came running off the express train, almost into me, laughing that she didn't want the express, and placed her hand on my shoulder laughing, telling me she was only going to 28th Street. This made me feel clean, a nice, human interaction, me laughing knowingly along with her mistake, having done it myself countless times.

The optomotrist gave me an eye test with my glasses on that I could not do, and then wrote out a new prescription that will be ready this afternoon and will hopefully be correct.

Walking back to my house, I walked past this man hosing down the dirt off the front of his house, this old man, and seeing this made me so happy. I really wished that I knew his name and could call it, say hello, and live in a small town. He stopped hosing when he saw me coming and looked my way. I gave him a big grin and wave and said Hello. The old man, happy, said hello back. And it is not cold today. The outlines of the clouds glow today as if someone traced them in an electric highlighter. The sun is out and I am happy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

There is a Strand Sucks website, and it bothers me not because it trashes the Strand but because it could be done so much better. For a while, I entertained the idea of creating a Strand Sucks webiste (seriously, with the same name) and was going to do it so much better, and so that's why I am mildly annoyed by the appearance of this one. It is done by some employee and everyone wants to know who, and I am running through the list of potentials in my head also, wondering which of my co-workers has this sense of humor, has Photoshop, and isn't too wordy.

The site has too many references to Nancy and Fred, the owners, people no one cares about or has anger towards beside the employees. The site should be geared toward a much broader audience, the NY book buying public. The ideas I had brainstormed for my site was advice on how to steal books, which ones aren't tagged. How to get books for cheaper if you are afraid of stealing: peeling off the labels of paberbacks and getting them for half-priced, or switching around stickers of books with similar titles. I was also going to have a guide of other bookstores to sell your books to, so that you would not be giving the Strand books for pennies that they would then mark up tenfold. I was going to try to get the big NY book bloggers to link to it: MobyLives and Maud Newton.

But more importantly, this was all going to be done with a purpose, with the message hammered again and again that the Strand workers were exploited and grossly underpaid and that these were tactics to bring attention to that. That is not being done on Strand Sucks, rather it is more of an adolescent slambook, demonizing authority figures. So I am just sad at the potential not utilized with this site, but I do still think it is funny, and that the boy is ballsy to tag the site's address in the employee bathroom and outside the Strand.


Cold and wet: one of the worst combos ever.

Aimmee Mann on cold and wet days: excellent.


The Princeton Review wrote me back to say that there aren't any full time openings but that I can still work there part time if I want. I am going to do that until the New Year, at which point if I am not in the circus, and if there is still part time work at the Princeton Review, I am going to quit the Strand and try to pick up enough shifts at PR to survive. Three shifts there equals a week at the Strand, so I think I can do this easily.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Here I go. Watch me as shoot myself in the foot over and over again, the left and the right, both of them again and again. Sometimes it is nicer not knowing how close you were to something and how much your irresponsible actions cost you. I just talked to Peter (who works at the Princeton Review) and Irina (my boss while I was there) asked what was up with me, if I did not want to work there. And Peter said that the way she talked about it, sounded like she was talking in reference to working there full time permanently - and that I have wrecked that by not showing up for what I thought were my last two days there last week.

I just assumed that a full time gig there was not possible after having asked about it, but I guess it was, or might have been, and man, now, I am cursing my actions and about to write an e-mail to Irina apologizing for not showing up and ah, watch and laugh, amuse yourself as I do stupid thing after stupid thing and chronicle it all here for some sense of art, of stabs at something, not sure what, never succeeding, but always ready with the gun in my hand, or in my holster, or wherever it is when you manage to do this foot shooting.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Gary Indiana talks about the eighties East Village art scene, in response to the New Museum's show that I want to see now. This is choice:

The East Village had already become a zoo, and NYU would go on to plant some ugly dormitories down and unleash thousands of rich kids whose idea of art was grazing the streets and poking into boutiques while asserting their pathologies by screaming into cell phones. But hey, shit happens.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

salmon, red wine, and bankruptcy

I left work early tonight to go to Daniel's party with Joe. I got home, called Joe, and have still yet to hear from him. I am sad that I am not going to this party. Sad, for one, because I am not going. Sad, for two, because I am not going by myself, not being brave and walking the long walk there in the cold to a party where I would not have the saftey of Joe to talk to in lonely moments - for basically not going because I am a wimp when it comes to certain social situations.

It is not really that sad. I am drinking red wine and eating salmon while looking at information about, and seriously considering the option of filing for bankruptcy. I love that sentence.

Friday, December 3, 2004

a + b + c

I very may well fall asleep within the hour by six pm and the reason is a six dollar bottle of Cabarnet Sauvignon that I opened a couple of hours ago, that I am have already drank half of, and that had me enjoying a piece of erotica far more so than before I had started to drink the wine. The erotica in question is Melissa P's 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed that was written by an Italian sixteen year old, and nothing against sixteen year olds but it definitely sort of shows sometimes with the overblown, flowery sex cliches that even Anais Nin would think too much. For example: "We were fitted together like a key in a lock, like a farmer's spade thrust into the rich, luxuriant soil. His erect member, after nodding off a little while, again began to thrill me with the same shudders as before, and my broken voice showed him how much I was enjoying the game."

They are her supposed diaries, and I was reading it today on the subway also, feeling dirty to be reading erotica in public, thinking that everyone around me knew I was a total perv. I tried hiding the cover. This city is beautiful sometimes and I was thinking this before I had even purchased the wine. I walked through the East Village this afternoon after I picked up my paycheck, still a little sexually charged from the book, and looked at everyone, every male especially wondering if they would be my lover, what it would be like to kiss their lips. This is a really fun activity to do, and one that will make you a lot more comfortable with your surroundings, more happy with the world, if you imagine the passer-bys as the possible lovers that they are, and think to how close you are to that, that you are just a conversation away from that, something that starts with a hello, that everyone here wants love, that they are all playing the same game, trying to advance to the next level. And yes, yesterday, I was just advocationg video game outlooks in writing.

But not just the people were exciting me, the buildings were, the pale blue restrained sky of winter ("what howls restrained by decorum"), and it felt like this neighborhood was mine - I like these streets better than the ones that surround my house, feel more familiar with them, but that is probably just because they are more culturally significant and I think to the diaries of Wojanrowicz, think to Lou Reed, and the streets are not mine, but these people have made them seem so. I kept thinking I would run into someone I know, was sorting of hoping to do do, to share my delight and joy with people, with human beings. I bought the previously mentioned bottle of wine and found my home, started to drink it, finished this book, and watched the sky from my kitchen window, the piegons gathered on the roof of the building behind mine and thought how much I love these sights, if not neccesarily my point of observation of them.

This wine is delicious. The clouds made me want to cry. I bid two dollars and fifty cents on the Ungame and find out in three hours if I won it, and I hope I do, I hope, I hope I do. It is a such an easy source of pleasure this combination of late afternoons, wine, and a book.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Misogynist rant just deleted after I reread how asshole it was. It was provoked by me complaining about [a certain person].

Some other thoughts and news:

I realize that a lot of the appeal of Philip Roth is his imperfectness, how he has some misogyinist tendencies, but how they make his novels better, more real. These things should not be excised from social novels depiciting this land. However much, I might have not like Roth's patronizing comments about blacks in Newark, I found it extremely brave and sincere, artistically commited to have these things in there. Roth talks about the race riots that destroyed Newark and obviously laments the loss of his Jewish neighborhood now that Newark is a black city.

The past few years have seen lots of literary writers exploiting comics: Amazing Adventure of Kavalier and Clay, The Fortress of Solitude, etc. I was standing over a guy who was sitting in a crowded subway car. He was playing on his Gameboy, and I thought that this has yet to be exploited. That there will be a boom of writers exploiting video games, nostalgia for those old Nintendo systems, maybe even utilizing video game players fantasies in its setup, a la Choose Your Own Adventure. Lichtenstein and Warhol exploited comic imagery for visual art decades ago, yet the lit trend seems to have just occured. Cory Arcangel is now playing around with old video game imagery in his art. Will it be decades again before it is adequately exploited in literature?

I didn't go the Princton Review today. MTA was out to fuck me over, making me wait twenty minutes for the L, and then another fifteen for a local downtown. No locals were coming. Four expresses had come and gone, and when the fifth one came, I said fuck it, I am not waiting, am not going to show up grossly late to the Princeton Review - so that job is over. I went and spent too much money and got a pair of glasses which will be ready on Monday.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Even before I went there, I knew I shouldn't and tried to convince myself to instead walk to St. Mark's Place and support an indie record shop, but I was lazy, it was cold and I was in a bad mood, ready to spend money in the hopes that a purchase, a CD would make me feel better. I have been wanting some Pretenders for a long time and yesterday looking through the CD's on offer at Virgin, there was one that had a bunch of songs I liked on it, however it looked like it might be a live album. A worker asked me if I needed help, I said I did, and asked him if there was any way of finding out if this was or was not a live album. He went to go find out and came back to tell me it was not a live album. I bought it, throwing away the wrapper, the bag, and the reciept, throwing the CD in my discman and going to sit in Union Square.

The album opened with applause. No, this isn't a live album.

It is what I get for supporting a chain CD store. The songs were all light, acousticy, and live! I was so irritated. Songs I love, lines sung a certain way were sung a different way, were sung slower and without as much as feeling as the studio versions I am used to. I went back to work, sick to my stomach, and feeling even worse having bought the album, knowing that you can't return opened CDs, and not even having the reciept. A couple hours later, mad at myself, and ready to try, I went back to Virgin and explained to about three people there what had happened, how someone had told me it was not a live album, how I HATE live albums and could I please, please just exchange it. And no, I don't have my reciept.

Homos are my saving grace in this world, and yesterday, I was able to return an opened CD without a receipt because the manager was a gay man and it is easy to charm gay men by being gay, and after enough self-deprecating comments, he gave in and let me return it. I now have their first album with no songs on it that I know (save #10), which really is what I should have done in the first place, rather then going for the safe choice, learning nothing new, milking songs I already know and the hope that they can provide feelings they have provided in the past. I got a new album that is awesome, that is far more rocking than I knew the Pretenders to be, and I hear so many people (um, Karen O?) and would think this album is deriviative if it were not from 1980, before the people I am hearing.

But god, "Brass Pocket" is awesome. Yes, I know all the words, have known them forever, but these feelings feel as good, as fresh as the first times I had them listening to this song. There's nobody else here, no one like me. I am special, so special.

I went to Metropolitan with Joe last night, played two games of pool. He won the first. I won the second. On my way home I ate beef jerky and string cheese. I finished American Pastoral this morning. What the hell was that Harper's essay by Franzen about? Roth has been writing this big, social novels for a while. Roth kicks Franzen's whiny, Charles Schulz loving ass.