Luke the Drifter, a comeuppance and Tom Robbins calls it quits…

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Art is subjective and the first subject is the soul of the artist.

I recently watched I Saw The Light, a Hank Williams biopic starring Loki and the Red Witch.  Old Hank was a lyrical genius with more than his share of inspiration and damnation.  He put it out there and out there and still it wasn’t enough to allow him the thing all artists crave.

Connection.

Connection with others.  Connection with the world at large.  Connection with an understanding of their own psyche.  When filled with the emptiness of lonesome, any connection will do; alcohol, drugs, sex, food, money, power, fame, failure.  Connection.

I spent time in Alabama this week.  Hank’s home state.  I had connection on the brain when I pulled in Sunday night and kept it there all week.

He wrote from the heart.  Quickly, without much editing and without much regret.  His alter ego, Luke The Drifter, carried the weight of his more soul-searching work, but Hank was the canvas of Luke’s art.  He was a tormented soul yearning to break out and be free.

Let’s regroup….

I pulled into Alabama thinking of Hank and my writing and the unspoken reality that connecting with others has never been easy for me.  Does it look easy?  Sure.  I learned to use humor years ago to impress, deflect, entertain, flirt and distract as I saw fit.  A manipulative skill but one that leaves them laughing and wanting more…

My own art is suffering from a plague of mediocrity that only I will openly admit.  Others won’t for fear of hurting my feelings or disrupting a friendship etc.  Craig S. stands out on this topic for his brutal honesty.  But, as a Man dealing in reality, he is as honest with Me about Me as he is about Himself.  This makes his criticisms constructive, reasonable and easy to swallow.

I started this years ago because I had this Tom Robbins inspired notion of writing 500 words per day, no matter what.  Broadcasting to the world seemed to satisfy two criteria:  Engage an audience, receive feedback.

Both failed.

So now is the time to rethink this entire pile and focus on turning mediocrity into something that is not mediocrity.

I hit Alabama by reaching out to writer friends about editors/publishers and the writing community at large.  I never really considered myself a writing group type of guy.  I don’t even know what genre is fitting for my writing.  I just write the words in my head and let them go.  Full disclosure:  I’ve never edited any story on this page.  100% of what is presented was written directly into the blog and only after the fact was it saved.  Including the Romeos stories.

You deserve better.

I deserve better.

My characters deserve better.

My soul deserves better.

To that end, no more stories will appear here.  I’m engaging an editor and moving in the direction of publication and becoming a serious, if underrated, underpaid and unknown, writer.

My last story, Purpose, was written in the San Antonio airport after reading three pages of Notes from the Underground.  What if the people we think of as having Special Needs were able to think clearly, perhaps more clearly than us, and were using our ignorance and compassion to fulfill their goals.  Be they good, evil or indifferent.

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Back to ranting then.

I could rant for hours about a limitless number of topics.  The desire to express one’s self, so necessary for artist, makes me a boorish snob at dinner parties, a know-it-all ass successful in self-aggrandizement others can only envy.  I’m fun to drink with, tough to get close to and unforgettable for reasons I forget.  I admire Bukowski because he shuns admiration and love Kerouac because he needs it.  Palaniuk is my favorite modern writer.  His writing, satire, wit and intelligence is unrivaled in this Stephanie Myers world.

I often think I should disappear to a remote island.  Indulge in my alcoholic dreams, consume Rum and write a memoir no one will read.  But the truth is I would end up sunburned, arrested and my memoir would consist of two paragraphs about railroads, midgets and the smell of Schlitz.

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Trump and Hillary are symptoms of the same disease.  We’ve spent decades accepting the lesser of two evils.  Now we have nothing but evil to choose from and, ye gods, we double-down on this fact.

We have to take sides.  If you’re Liberal, you’re a Libtard.  If you’re Conservative, you’re a KKKonservative.  If you’re pro-Black, you’re anti-White.  If you’re pro-Cop, you’re anti-Black.  If you’re pro-White, you’re the KKK.  The Hispanics show up in here somewhere but seem to have the sense to recuse themselves for the most part.  You’re either pro-Gun or a Socialist.  You’re either a Socialist or bible thumping gay-hater stuck in an all-White past.  If you disagree with Me, you’re a Communist.  If I disagree with you, I’m a Fox News watching Zombie who should be mocked.  You’re either forever Rich or forever Poor.  Pick a side God-Damn you!  If you don’t repost that video about a Black kid getting killed, you’re a bigot and part of the problem.  If you don’t repost that video about a Cop being killed by a Black kid, then you’re not American.  You must fly Old Glory just above your Don’t Tread On Me Banner or you’re some sort of commie-fucker and probably love Obama.

We…that means YOU and I…encourage, support, promote, reblog, repost, share, LIKE, Retweet, Comment and otherwise ENDORSE the very DIVISION we lament…

We the people, have created a less perfect Union which divides us along superficial, political borders…

We ask our kids to pick sides and then wonder why our country is divided.  Being Conservative doesn’t make you anti-Gay anymore than being Liberal makes you anti-White.  Plug in any names/agendas/topics  you wish in that sentence and it makes just as little as sense as the original.

We’ve let our Politics decide our Principles instead of our Principles deciding our Politics.

I think most people view their own lives as a Conservative and the lives of their neighbors as a Liberal.  I know I do.  I don’t care what you do, at all.  Just don’t ask me to pay for it.  I’ll stay out of your bedroom and take my wallet when I leave.   The Ten Commandments at a courthouse don’t bother me because I don’t feel as if my government is forcing me into Christianity anymore than their Speed Limit sign tricks me into going 55…

I believe that most people are Libertarians.  They just don’t understand Libertarians-so they naturally are apprehensive-and the media/education system has convinced them it is some sort of no holds barred Anarchy.  The Sheep count themselves to sleep…

Think of it this way.  Fiscally conservative, socially liberal.  That sounds like most everyone I know…

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I’ve been reading Seneca, Letters from a Stoic.

Try it.

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As always,

John.

 

 

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Bastards walk all over you sometimes, eh?

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This is a sign of my growing distaste for real work.
I woke up with a twisted haze floating around my eyes and the feeling that hangovers are in my DNA. The Drunkard’s Genome Project should receive some Stimulating benefits via Uncle Sam Adams. Most of the low-end bottles I saw in the trash can this morning had “Union Made” on the label. That makes it a legitimate industry for gubment help. Yes? No? Yeah, I don’t see my point either. This is further proof that I’m avoiding real work and rambling in hopes of finding something worth saying…

The real work is not taking yourself so seriously that every little thing is called “Real Work”, when typing to total strangers and those randomly courageous friends one has inherited along one’s path.

Right now, the real work is overcoming a bubbling distaste for my writing. This foulness, similar to sucking rancid meat juices off a homeless guy’s big toe, has developed into a full-blown nightmare. For the moment.
NOT the “Writer’s Block” everyone dreams about. I say “dreams” because it often seems that folks use “Writer’s Block” as an excuse to smell like a writer because hot bath of reality is too painful. They are trapped in a world of Fear and Laziness so perplexing, it is rationalized by Psychologists, Psychiatrist, and your favorite hair stylist alike. No, what I’ve got going on is running along this way.

I’ve got plenty to say, plenty of ideas, and plenty of work ethic…but every thing I hear in my head SUCKS comparatively speaking, to the words I’ve spent the day reading. That, my friends, is FEAR. NOT Writer’s Block.

Comic Interlude:

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I once thought of self-publishing a series of short stories and entitling the collection, “A Writer’s Block.”

Get it?

If writer’s get Writer’s Block, do executioner’s get Chopping Block?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The source of my literary halitosis is my ill-advised attempts at finding ‘inspiration’. I also think ‘inspiration’ is overrated like Mojitos and drunk girls making out in front of cell phones…but skip that, for now. I picked up this book of Short Stories, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat outside to read a line or fifty. By the time I finished the first story, I was as depressed as a Jewish kid on Christmas morning.

The truth is every writer feels this way but, well, I normally don’t feel this way at all. Of all the hatchet jobs I’ve done on my frail self-esteem, insulting the words in my head as never crossed my mind. But I read a few more stories and heard this low moaning coming from deep within…down where words are scarce and ill-fitting (I’ve used that same description in a story once).

I guess the part of this that applies to other writers is that we’ve all felt like shit on the shoe soles of successful scribes. Those bastards whose words dart off the page and into our minds with a laser’s pace and precision.

It can make you sick, really. Yeah, they’re professionals, and have paid their dues, and have had their work edited, sliced, diced, collated, collaborated, and passed around to enough literary snobs to fill a private college campus…but still.

It makes you sick when that little voice says, “You’ll never ever be that good.”

Bastards.

By the end of the night this will pass. I don’t really mind the random attack of Fear. Most times I just laugh at it, sit down, and write whatever random words I hear.

Which is what I did just now…

-John.

Accept the Fringe.

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I’m sitting there Wal-Mart checking the cheap-ass prices and wondering why they don’t carry Old Milwaukee in six packs so the non-drunk rednecks have something to drink. I was also thinking of The Doors because writing was on the back burner and what is writing without Brother Jim et al telling you its O-fucking-K to be a little nuts sometimes, when the mother of an old dead friend pops up next to me like a guilt trip with no ticket.

She says, “I want a copy of the poem you wrote about Harmon. Send it to Gary.”

Now let’s be honest here for a moment. I can’t tell you fine folks about Harmon, or Gary, or Betty, or the fishing trips, or the jokes, or the memories without crying in my Pabst like a two-year old. Harmon is off-limits. But there I was, in Wal-Mart (as sterile an environment as any operating room) and being reminded that a tad bit over a year ago one of my oldest, most loved friends was killed and I-in my rampage of ambitious bullshit and comfortable insecurities-never sent her my thoughts.

Let’s get down to some ugly monkey balls about this whole “Writing” thing if we can Pedro.
I put it in quotes because so many of us (capital US) consider “Writing” a sort of neo-religion that we assume there is some mystical language to solving its mystical power.
I call Bullshit so loud a headstone falls over…

You don’t have to be the best writer. Or published. Or edited. Or polished. Or worthy of your “fav” writer’s attention without a restraining order…BUT to someone, somewhere, at some point…YOU are the greatest writer alive.

You are it. The Hemingway of their memories. The Kerouac of their dreams. The Irving of their sorrow. YOU ARE FUCKING IT…

Bright as Time Square. Hot as a Forest Fire. YOU are it. You have the feelings, the emotions, the words, the ability,the talent, the time, the willingness to express whatever they feel.

Call it Obligation.

Call it Guilt.

Call it Love.

It is You and you, my virtual friends, are It.

You are the best writer they know because no one else is willing to sit down and write something while crying a little…while dying a little…while wondering “WHY ME?” so loud God grabs his (or hers) ear plugs.

>>>>>>>>>>

I read my poem about Harmon.
I read my post about Harmon.
I cried about Harmon while hiding in a dark kitchen like a rat.

By the time Gary opens his Facebook, Brother Jim will be silent, and the Pabst will all be gone.
My talk will be about a newborn Son, my potential house, and other realities.
But my mind will remember that I’m the best writer others know simply because I’m willing to cast it all out and let them reel it in…my tears will remember Harmon and his Mother’s request in the middle of Wal-Mart.

And when I have the time…
I’ll sit down, again, to write.

Because that is who I am.
Like it.
Lump it.
Fuck it.

It is all there is…

So be it…

That’s what we do. That’s who YOU are.

Accept the Fringe.

-John.

Listing history, calling the faithful, reflecting on a fictional childhood…

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We are looking to buy a house. Yes, I’m 40, married and the father of 4 (known) children and just getting around to buying a house. I had a choice once about 8 years ago: Buy a house or start a business. Currently I don’t own a house or a business so yeah…not too bright.

We contacted the real estate folks and they sent listings. Growing up in Crewe (population hovering 1,000) I lived in a total of 9 different houses in 18 years. In the last 5 years we lived in 5 different houses. The constant moving was a reminder that money was a theory, not a fact.

Of the houses I lived in, three are now for sale and within our price range. The one my parents had built before their divorce in 1980 now has English Ivy growing INTO the chimney while a foreclosure notice flaps on the breezy front porch. Two others were rentals but now have been “renovated” by homeowners hoping to make a profit.
I think about that country song out at this time. A woman sings about visiting her old home and refers to it as “The House that built me” or something like that. I like the song. As interesting it may be to buy a home that my family once rented, or to renovate the home my parents built I just can’t see it. Crewe is still Crewe. We are waiting for a house in the country with some land. We like living in the back yard during summer, turning up the music, having open containers of alcohol, riding four-wheelers, swimming in the pool and letting the dog run free. We enjoy telling the kids to go outside and knowing they’ll be alone.
Those old houses built me, but now they need to build someone else.

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I started this blog to talk about writing but soon realized I don’t have much to talk about. I don’t organize an outline, agonize over characterization, develop symbolism or consider writing ‘hard work’. Maybe that’s my problem, but so far, my editor doesn’t think so.
She calls it free writing.
Editing requires work, writing requires courage. Or stupidity. Or arrogance. Truth is I’ve got plenty of courage, stupidity, and arrogance. I’m covered.

You need some courage to say what you want to say and not give a monkey’s nut if anyone else gets it. Someone will ‘get it’, even if the first person who reads it says, “Yeah, maybe you need a urinalysis and some therapy.”

For the record, taking a whiz quiz doesn’t show how much Robotussin you drink or if you slip a blotter of acid under you tongue every other Friday night.

So I don’t have neat little lists and writing prompts to offer. Sorry.
But I do offer you faith.

I have faith you can write the words you hear in your head.

I have faith those words will ring true to someone, somewhere, one day, eventually.

I have faith that if you think about writing, want to write, and enjoy writing then you are a Writer. Period.

I have faith that Life is much simpler than the human brain can fathom.

I have faith that sitting in front of a computer waiting for inspiration is akin to playing the lottery; odds are you lose and feel stupid for even trying. Go Live. Inspiration is a grown up, it’ll take care of itself. Promise.
Writing is your Life reflected by a mirror disguised as Inspiration.

Being yourself isn’t easy, that’s why so few people do it.

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Monday I plan on posting the beginning of a story called, “Roscoe’s Marker”. It’s another story based around Mahalia, VA. The idea is to eventually collect the short stories based in Mahalia. Right now, they are being edited for submission to magazines (print & online) in hopes of developing a resume. A writer’s resume is essentially a list of published work, workshops attended, awards etc.

Mahalia is a place filled with tragedy, rumor, gossip, inspiration, comedy, beauty, abortionists, love, pedophiles, drunks, one-eyed midgets, circus freaks, ghosts, retired secret agents, homeless Phds, rednecks, Yankees, rapists, preachers, monkeys, and suicidal buildings. We have no grocery store but seven places to buy beer & lottery tickets. Storefront churches fill main street as old churches are demolished for parking lots. We had a canibal but he was killed years ago when his propane grill blew up. There are rumors of a voodoo lady who lives just out of town, but others say she’s more of a witch doctor. Apparently, there’s a difference. We have one “buy-here, pay-here” car dealership run by a bible-thumping Nazi with a lisp and an out of control shoe fetish. The cemetery has a tombstone shaped like a dollhouse. Everyone is related to someone who goes by the name “Bubba”. No one waves at strangers since that accident up on the big highway.
There are 3 degrees of seperation in Mahalia.
Six is just too much.
The whole town is on the wrong side of the tracks.

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Watch The Bucket List.

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My father’s chain-smoking manic depressive friend, green oil.

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I’m reading Vonnegut’s Palm Sunday. It’s a collection of essays, speeches, letters etc. he’d written by that point in his career. It came out in 1980 or 1981. I don’t pay much attention anymore to when a book came out. I don’t care. If it’s good, it’ll be good. If it sucks, it sucks. Publication dates don’t mean much. I once heard Tarantino say that the first weekend of a movie’s release has jackshit to do with the eventual mark that movie will make. I can see that. All this mojo online about getting your book out, finding out the latest trends blah, blah, blah.

Kurt Vonnegut means a lot to me for two reasons. When my Dad left in 1980 or so a few odds & ends from his life remained in his wake. Army stuff, a few pictures and this one book Mom always claimed belonged to him. It was Cat’s Cradle. I use Italics instead of the Strunk & White demanded underline because I don’t know how to underline things on this blog site.
I’m not computer illiterate, just computer apathetic.

So, one of the few material items left of my joyous, nuclear family years was a book by a chronically depressed chain-smoking atheistic socialist with a degree in chemistry and a penchant for odd characters in ghastly situation.

I read the book once when I was in high school and couldn’t understand a damn thing I read. Ice-9? WTF? But I kept it around. Years later I reread it once I had met Craig Schwartz and began to understand that books could actually be interesting, not just homework assignments or pop fiction summaries of the latest movie. Then I loved it. I still love Kurt Vonnegut’s writing.

The other reason is because he is a “literary illiterate” like me. I’ve never made a systemic study of literature, nor do I read much modern pop lit. I sort of float through the used book stores and thrift shops of my area looking for a snazzy cover or an author who wrote a blurb for Vonnegut, Thompson, Robbins, Irving, or Miller. Then I open it up. If it has pictures I buy it instantly. If not, I’ll brood about it like a bull studying a virgin fighter. Henry Miller said Write Honestly, even if poorly and to flush the Classics. So be it.
When I find a book I love, like Cat’s Cradle, I read it. Then later I’ll check out some “Wikipedia” type page that discusses the story. Usually, the shit I got out of the book isn’t even listed as a freaking theme? Something in the water does not compute, does not compute?

My point was to try to answer a question someone asked me on a different blog about writer’s block.
I don’t believe in it. Period. Whenever I run low on the writing mojo I don’t blame some mythical psychological block developed only for the lost-ass bastards who write for public consumption. Nope. I blame ME for not writing. Writer’s block is a fancy-schmancy term for Fear and Laziness. I get scared that what I think is a good idea will suck to someone else. So I don’t write it. Everyone cares what others think. Anyone tells you different is either a lying rat turd or a teenager. The other reason is laziness. It is easier to think of a plot, think of a character etc. than it is to sit down and write it out. Simple as that.
So what do I do when I don’t feel like writing or can’t write?
I write.
Then delete.
Then I write.
Then delete.
Then I write, again.

Writing is like bungy jumping: the ride down is great, as long as you come back up. Let the city burn while you type, damn the torpedoes, smack the cat, beat your meat, smell your coffee, drink your wine, love your kids, cuss your car, whatever it takes to get your ass back in the driver’s seat of your writing ambitions. Don’t worry if you aren’t making the “symbolic literary statement of your time”.
Writing every day will make you feel more like a writer. The more like a writer you feel, the more you will want to write.

One of the deceptions of our current athletics/academics industrial complex is that Action follows Motivation. It doesn’t. Action does not follow Motivation. Motivation follows Action. I don’t get all these writing prompts people use. They are fun little distractions but for me, there’s more to be discovered by sitting quietly, alone, watching the leaves sway in the breeze. Just WRITE. The words will come out when you start writing.

Until then, you’re just playing with a cat’s cradle.

beep.

It’s America. We don’t spell Football F-U-T-B-O-L. I know the whole world loves the sport. If the whole world jumped off a damn cliff would you join in? A guy asked me the other day, “You watching the World Cup?” Um, dude. I wear 300+ pounds and drink Irish Whiskey out of a Bears cup…you think I’m watching Pedro and M’butu kick a ball around while the fans beat the hell out of each other?

beep.

They are taking some of the spilled oil and recycling it into refined oil for commercial use. Does this make it a recycled product and therefore environmentally sound?

beep.

Never quit.