Saturday was the first day of snow, but for months I forgot to talk about fall. Fall arrives in New England like there's no such thing as global capitalism collapse, global class rage, global climate change and wholesale ecological dissolution, global anything. New England didn't get its shore or its subways wrangled by a hurricane. This Fall makes me want to read poems like "On Living" and "Things I Didn't Know I Loved" and "Some Advice To Those Who Will Serve Time In Prison" by Nazim Hikmet. "We'll still live with the outside," says Nazim Hikmet, "with its people and animals, struggle and wind—" To the left is a turbine in Maine. Fall arrives in New England like no one ever made fun of Sylvester Graham for inventing the graham cracker. Fall arrives in New England with snow that throws itself around like it's been shotgunning energy drinks. Beautifully, gloomily, well-timed, apple cider and woodsmoke and cardigan gust. "And I also advise weaving," Nazim Hikmet says, "and making mirrors."
First I have to say something about Chris Toll. He was jolly in the corner, and it's very strange that he is gone. I'll miss him. I rode down to Baltimore in October with my friends Chris and Heather, who were reading in a literature party/ tribute / celebration. It was good to meet Chris Toll's sons and see all my Baltimore people—their loud pants and casual shirts and big beards and crooked-tooth punk-it-all heartwork—and it was good to have friends from New York and Northampton there too. There was a big photograph of Chris Toll, and spidery strings of something that had to do with the unrelated installation between our heads and the ceiling, but nothing's really unrelated. Chris Toll's book covers had things on them like a tiger, Yoda, a mummy secret agent doctor, a UFO, and a fish humping a pickle cactus. His poems said things like "Why isn’t lunch in melancholy?" They said things like "How long can I stay / at the inn in innocent? / Love is so hard / and it's all we came to do." For my birthday this year he gave me a big book of conspiracy theories to set me straight. I asked him if the book was good and he said he hadn't read it because he knew it all, but if I was interested there were lizard people videos to watch on YouTube. My friend Chris Toll picked up the light he was always telling us about, and he went on with it. And a little while ago after some pizza, my friend Seth interrupted whatever all of us were talking about to point out the stars—like, I'm sorry, but would you just look at those stars? I mean geez. ("I just remembered the stars," says Nazim Hikmet. "I love them too / whether I'm floored watching them from below / or whether I'm flying at their side"). You can read more about Chris in the Baltimore City Paper, at Atticus Review, and on HTMLGIANT. Goodbye and hello to your light, Chris.
Once upon a time a person didn't update his blog an entire summer. Near the end of the summer, on a couple buses back from weddings, the person irrationally freaks out and envisions his death among strangers—specifically among the inclines and declines that mark the entries and exits of said buses onto and off of interstates—and continues to anxiously envision said death for a few weeks. He decides under the monsoon of this irrational anxiety to vacuum his dark-ass secret basement of self with all its fucked up shit and put the resultant bag of dustbunnies in between himself and the person he loves the most.
Included in the bag is, you know, your betrayals, your dishonesty, your stupidity, your narcissism, your self-fulfilling prophecies of self-protective darkness—one funny thing about capitalism is there are bags for anything and no one can remember who got the size and shape so perfect the first time because we've gotten so good at reproducing these bags. The person the bus person loves, she is like what the fuck is this shit? She is like I did not sign up for this. She is like this is your own bag. She is like you didn't buy this from anyone else but yourself. She's right.
Anyway. The person the bus person loves goes and gets a new place with flowers and farmers. It seems good. Meanwhile the bus person is surrounded by graceful friends. The bus person looks at the moon and clicks up the phone and feels ridiculously and melodramatically alone, and then he looks for his friend, who is right there in the living room with his wife, and the bus person's friend comes out on the porch and sits with the bus person for a little while, and they talk about family systems, and the best thing that talk ever accomplishes is to promise more talk. The promise of talk not being done ///
Meanwhile the rest the world is secretly thinking, dude, chill out, it's just love. But he can't help it, and he sees the person he loves, and at least she is still in this world. Which is a really good thing for the world, and some of the world has realized that and some of the world will get to realize that, and he feels happy that there is more of the world to await. And the Orioles made the playoffs and a weirdly named moderate Republican got re-elected so he can keep authorizing the remote deaths of not-your-four-year-olds and Bonnie Prince Billy made a beautiful cover of an Everly Brothers Christmas song with Dawn McCarthy and really: you say basement, they say record of collapsed earth, and that's about as belonging as we've figured out how to get.
THE OLD POST
They finished the building across from the building. They sent all of us an invitation. Building for the Future, it says. Where do I go to get on a bill? The bike trail is where the daring squirrels hang out. The wok is where the tomatoes boil. Zorro masks are reasonably priced on the internet, but toy guitars are more fragile than advertised. Leonard Cohen can always get talked into singing another song if you tell him about the faces in the front. Summer never hid—it treaded water under the railroad bridge until summer.
Thanks again to Maggie Beauvais for inviting me to hang out at Bushwick Open Pages. It was a good time of giving away magazines, meeting some 010101 people in person, banh mi sandwiches, freak June thunderstorms, that thing where a bar/restaurant has a wall facing the street but the wall goes away when the weather is nice, which always makes me want to steal food when I walk by, but obviously not if I'm on the inside, though I guess when it really comes down to it, I have to consider myself made mostly of the outside, at least when it comes to how I walk. Actors daring some freakward inside dives. Discussion of information theory and hospitals in Baltimore, attempts and failures to buy a stuffed panda thanks to the inflated prices of graduation season.
A LITBRIDGE IS A BRIDGE THAT LIGHTS UP EVERY SUNSET WITH DISCO LIGHTS [[ OR ]] IT'S THE GATEWAY MUSIC THAT EVENTUALLY AND UNFORTUNATELY GETS YOU INTO THE BAND LIT
Speaking of the picture of me eating a Newman-O (what is this, Tumblr? MySpace? iNarcissism? Xenga? Jenga? What is this, am I an extra in that Jumanji movie? No? I'm not? I'm not friends with Robin Williams? Shit.), Melissa Burton asked me some questions for LitBridge about starting Magic Helicopter Press. Thanks, Melissa! I feel a little guilty about being so flip about the MFA question, especially since the title of the thing is "How to Start a Press While You Are Still An MFA," but I don't feel that guilty because technically that sentence means "while you are still a master of fine arts," which is a hilarious thing to even try to parse. November update: no longer running MHP out of a bedroom, now running it out of a corner of a living room. Get ready for my square footage math, IRS! Specifically the Will Ferrell IRS character in Stranger Than Fiction, and all of Maggie Gyllenhaal's characters in all her movies are secretly terrific bakers (square that one, MG fans).
In August, I went to Omaha, Nebraska to do an event put together by one of the purest hearts I've ever known in my short life, Mr. Gene Kwak. The first mention of Mr. Gene Kwak on this blog was in April of 2010, when I said I felt broship with him, and this broship has not abated over the years—it has only grown and grown. He is someone you want holding the knot. I would trust his advice in a forest on berries and mushrooms and even leaves.
In Omaha, I got to read with Ryan Ridge, who is like if a NASCAR announcer just kept expressing earnest concern for the emotional wellbeing of all the drivers and wondering out loud if they were really hanging on in there and inviting everyone who could hear him on TV to come down to the bar with him and have a highball or two. More Ryan Ridge please. Always. If we're being honest, I need him slapping me on the back every morning is what I really need out of this life.
We did some wandering and eating and drinking and cozy basement-sleeping (many thanks to Gene's sister and family) and sleeping-with-cats (thanks to Gene's friends) and music watching and got to hang out with Gene's Omaha crew, who were collectively like a wonderful wool beach bonfire blanket, except in the middle of the country in Silicon Prairie, so figure that one out. The event was with Simon Joyner, one of my goddamn heroes, which was pretty surreal, and he was a nice guy and raised his hand when I asked the audience if any of them had been an asshole in high school, which I feel like it takes a really straightforward guy to admit.
The event also included The Betties, who were dozy-doe and flannel twang and lovely sad drink-it-up-and-make-some-hell-until-our-eyes-look-red-and-good music. Plus Mike and James of Gus &Call, who had harmonies like what it would taste like if the soda Mountain Dew actually lived up to its name.
Thanks to you, Omaha. I will brush your dust again one of these days.
Then a few weeks later in August, I did a reading in Boston with Jill McDonough and Ariana Reines. Hosted by the gracious Jon Papas and Molly McGuire at the always rollicking Brookline Booksmith. I was scared about a tornado, but thankfully it was a false blust. Jon and Molly live in a sweet warehouse space now, and I felt like I was on a very specific sub-genre of sitcom known as the "loft sitcom." Ariana's bus was rankled in storm traffic, so she read over speakerphone. Ariana was her brilliant self—talk about an agent of changing the air. Jill was hilarious and read about secret agents. I was happy to meet her and get to know her crisp/wise and funny/sad work.
Also I saw a hometown friend who is out of the military now and is trying to meditate to avoid PTSD. Seems sustainable. It was good to see him. Even if all the rest of my life has gone to shit, I feel like I am really fulfilling the destiny of the senior yearbook photo where I was voted "Most Likely To Succeed" and insisted on dressing up in my homeless-uncle coat. An asshole loves his incongruity. Ariana at one point asked me if I used to have long hair. She was incorrect in substance but correct in spirit. In the morning before my bus, Jon and Molly and I had breakfast at a diner that gave us free banana bread the way some places give you free dinner breadsticks. It's funny when you have to explain a good idea by really drawing out the description of a common idea. Thank you for everything, Boston. See you in a few months.
THINGS ON THE INTERNET
I've speckled the internet a little bit since we've seen each other, blog friend. Blog fry. Blog slice. The internet and I, we just can't find the keys to the handcuffs between us. We keep spilling on each other. Ladies and gentlemen of the journey, the exhibits, AKA this is what happens when you don't update your blog for like six months, AKA a here-is-a-potentially-overwhelming-and-alienating-dump-because-I-am-just-trying-to-thank-everyone-and-at-the-same-time-be-ecologically-transparent-about-what-it-means-to-be-a-blathering-hiccup-in-this-suffused-and-suffering-world:
<<< $*$ >>> At Atticus Review, new dad and dude-who-is-as-good-at-being-a-friend-as-chartucherie-is-at-being-a-concept Jamie Iredell featured some work of mine. There was a YouTube theme. First, a story from Look! Look! Feathers, "Susan White and the Summer of the Game Show," that is about what happens when you put the loneliness of YouTube in the bean grinder with the loneliness of everybody in your town. Then the first ever excerpt from this huffing zombie baby of a thing I've been working on called You In User. We also had a good conversation, as we've had more than a few times now, and we took turns describing YIU and Jamie won and then there were a few paragraphs about Burning Man but you'll have to do the click-through for those:
JI: So You in User: former YouTube employee in email conversation with a kicked off user? Am I getting that right? Tell us what the hell’s going on in this novel, you know, without spoiling too much of it.<<< $*$ >>> And then at Leveler they explained my poem "Scare the Information Through Direct Observation," and at first I didn't like the explanation but then I did. Thanks to Jennifer Fortin for not giving up on me after I took like a year to send her something. What's relevant to the brutal stranger is that this poem has the Doritos taco from Taco Bell in it, and frogs at a baseball stadium.
MY: Yes, gawddamn, thank you for managing to do what I have a really hard time doing, which is explain the pretty simple premise in a single sentence. Here now is my unnecessary elongation of your explanation: YouTube comes up with this service where they hire people to write personalized account cancellation notices, almost counselor-ish, help the deviants, etc., except they almost immediately realize that’s a terrible idea and they can’t really pay anyone to do that, so the narrator of You In User, Neil, is fired, except he has one last user left in his queue, and he has other wobbles, duh of duhs, so he starts venting in this huge never-sent email to this last user of his, tacking on more and more, draft after draft (or, like, one big draft? I honestly am foggy—like real life foggy, not just in this thing—about what a draft is) as things start getting more and more fucked. Like for example Neil’s mother is getting these weird packages of candied bones in the mail. And his father is living by himself in a condo in Springfield, MA designing golf carts. And then there’s this runaway teenage daughter of a woman whose exotic pet is a YouTube celebrity, and there is even a girl who plays bass on rollerskates and a French guy who really likes high fives. I am a shit-for-brains when it comes to summary because I feel like I just made it sound like a terrible Tom Robbins adventure book, but maybe it is a terrible Tom Robbins adventure book, in which case I will try to swallow this and run with it and resign myself to my inner hack and go to Burning Man or something.
Jeremy Bauer told me my stories reminded him of action movies at Front Porch, which was a reaffirming thing to hear, and we talked about that and about food and towns and Barbie limousines. Thanks, Jeremy! He's a great dude, too. Now, I'm not going to narcissisticly scour my entire fucking blog to see if I've ever done a picture of a Barbie limousine before, but here's guessing I have, so I've tried to switch it up by Google Image Searching "sad barbie limo," and I found this person's living room floor. The most interesting things about this picture are: 1) how long it takes to load and thus slows down my page, 2) the reappropriation of a perfectly complicated stranger's living room floor, the 3) the fact the link will probably die by, say, the next presidential election, and archivists will really have to use their imagination.
I wrote a little about Thailand and soldiers and war for Robert Kloss, who asked me to riff on his very fine book The Alligators of Abraham over at Sundog Lit. I was happy to talk about soldiers with their boots in the river and heartstopping language mangles, and I was happy to share the space with Matthew Salesess, also a new dad. WTF is with all these new dads, yo. All I can see is people giving each other piggyback rides in the parking lot next to the radio station and managing to not fall in the snow. That's all I'm ready for.
<<< $*$ >>> And finally I presented a book of prison letters by Aileen Wuornos over at HTMLGIANT, including a conversation between the editors Lisa Kester and Daphne Gottlieb and some selections from the letters themselves. I was very affected by this book, and here is what I said in introducing it, which if you're following along in your attic is actually a maintaining of thematic coherence in this here blog plod:
Imagine you are shown a picture of yourself walking along a highway you have never seen. And now you are asked how you got there. Obviously you have to start running. As in running out of what you remember. Or running out, like losing it. And they want you to talk and talk, so immediately you’re talking back through hell. Talking back to hell. Or taking back hell. Maybe sing, you could call it, like hell. Whatever you want to call it and others call it for you. Insanity is a community decision, heroism is a community decision. Violence is the opposite of space. Everything I know about violence is also the nothing I know about violence.PEOPLE I'VE READ WITH RECENTLY AS EXPLAINED BY ONE ANIMAL I ADMIRE AND ONE REFERENCE TO A FAMOUS SPORTS STAR I ADMIRE:
— }}} %%% ::: Zach Savich: the Ichiro of snow foxes.
— }}} %%% ::: Blueberry Morningsnow: the Kirby Puckett of flying squirrels.
— }}} %%% ::: Leora Fridman: the Dominik Hašek of mountain lions.
— }}} %%% ::: Anthony Madrid: the Spaceman Bill Lee of owls.
AND NOW FINALLY THIS VERY LONG POST IS OVER AND I AM GOING TO PLAGIARIZE SOMETHING I SAID IN A TEXT MESSAGE AND THEN SAID IN A TWITTER AND THEN SAID IN A POEM AND I'M GOING TO USE THE DRAWN OUT SYNTAX THAT'S THE ONLY THING THAT RELIABLY MAKES ME HAPPY AND WHAT I SAID WAS I SAID "The sky looks like a Goodwill that’s closing down for good
and all that’s left are three identical wool coats" AND THE ACCOMPANYING SONG FOR THAT DESCRIPTION OF THE SKY IS THIS SONG BY IRIS DEMENT, WHO IS THE BEST COUNTRY VOCALIST EVER, MALE/FEMALE/SKY/BASEMENT/OTHERWISE: