Monday, May 18, 2020. If my writing sucks then all the effort, money and time devoted to it is a waste and I ought to have been doing something else. You see folks writing their lives away for nothing. You see visual artists and, less often, musicians doing their thing lifelong in spite of categorical indifference. And with indie publishing you can not only write your life away but publish it all, too, if you can manage to afford it. Or otherwise justify the expense. What justifies spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on a non-starting non-career? The imperative of the writing. The idea that you can’t not do it. The sense of self-fulfillment any artist-craftsman achieves by way of the act of creation. Which is an experience that is independent from having one’s work be appreciated, let alone purchased, by others.
My work has been purchased by one or two folks that are not members of my family. That makes me a professional. An embarrassingly unsuccessful professional but professional nonetheless. Now what? Keep at it. The difference between a complete failure and an inevitable failure isn’t much, but it’s that if nothing else. The not having called it quits. Because then there’s nothing left to do but something else entirely. This way I can work on TC2, for example, as I did for the first time in a month, and see it as part of a plan, a component of a strategy and a vision. It’s not defiance as much as compulsion. Our VAPM is this way. One is compelled to keep working at one’s work in spite of everything. The thing to watch out for, to try to remain cognizant of is that sometimes it’s indeed over and hanging on regardless can be regarded as a form of insanity. When to know the difference between being determined and devoted and desperate and doomed? I don’t know. Not at this point. I’m giving this adventure a year – from the January 31, 2020 publishing date of TC1 to January 31, 2021 – and then we’ll see. If it’s been a collective loss and I’ve received no valuable input or encouragement from anyone – readers, critics, what have you – then I’ll try to look at the future of my professional writing life squarely and consider moving on. Into what else, I can’t imagine. Meanwhile, I’ll keep pouring energy, time and money into this thing.
This is what journaling is for: writing your way through it. Through the obscurity and sense of oblivion and the roaring silence. Meanwhile I’m over halfway through May and my goal of selling at least one copy every month is in jeopardy of failing. And it’s a technicality I’m hinging this goal upon because what I really mean is that I need to sell at least one copy sometime within a given month, not within thirty days. Because I haven’t sold a copy since the first week in April, for instance. And it’s not lost on me that such a goal is almost too pathetically pathetic to even count as a goal. One copy in a given month. My god. That it’s beginning to seem like an unreasonably ambitious goal to sell twelve copies in a year is a little disturbing. Nay, it’s a lot disturbing. That being a writer is lonely and doesn’t pay is something everybody takes for granted until you actually attempt to live the life, to be a writer and not be read. To write and write and work and work and never experience any indication from anyone that your work, which amounts to your life, is anything but categorically ineffectual. It’s a murderous condition. It murders one’s sense of community, of belonging anywhere, of goddamn reality. So that here you are, writing to no one but yourself, envisioning as a career what appears to everyone else as a hobby and furthermore spending large sums of money for the privilege. And I find myself indeed, crazily, considering it a privilege to be able to afford the time (such as it is lately) and the money to keep at it. It really is terrifying how tiny one’s entrepreneurial working life can get.
You can’t think about it like this, of course, at least not productively. I rant here and there in these pages and then go on about writing these pages anyway. And eventually find a way to bang away at TC2, bit by miserable bit. And so it goes. My writing life. Which, I know, mirrors the life of other writers. All of us out there communicating into deaf space, into the indifferent void, into the slush piles of the cosmos. Why in hell do we do it? Because we can’t help it. Which must be a kind of illness. Quit. Stop. Shut up, already. What is it with us who can’t not do it? I claim to seek the experience of being properly alive yet how is it that I can categorize this life as such? It’s a mystery as to how the writer’s version of commensurate reward for their work can shrink to such sub-atomic dimensions.
Paper products – toilet tissue, facial tissue, paper towels – are no longer being rationed. Someday perhaps a bar or a restaurant will reopen in this town. Spring has sprung. My brother in law has brain cancer. My uncle has leukemia. My parents are returning from their annual winter hideout in Arizona. I have to work today from noon to 6pm. The mind knows no distance. Time, like gravity, exerts its intangible influence, driving us to the core.
DOP1 2012 VINTAGE POST:
Friday, May 18, 2012. I walked to another “tasting” at zcob. Something like ten olive oils, four or five grape seed oils and a handful of vinegars (my least favorite thing to taste typically because they’re palette-killers and frankly, I can’t see the use of them except very occasionally in cooking) were on the agenda. Also available was drinking chocolate, lots of variously coated/flavored nuts (who fucking cares?), butterscotch candy, honeys, mustards, and a shit-load of the perennially ubiquitous, yet inevitably absurd, condiments: tomato jelly, pumpkin butter, marmalades, fruit spreads (with sugar as the main ingredient), chocolate spreads, blah, blah, blah. All this stuff in jars is, in my professional opinion, mostly crap. However, in the proper context, I can see how it might still be to fun to consider in a tasting environment. It’s too bad then that the deli tastings are so fucking uninspired, full of jaded, uninterested “tasters” and ultimately a forgone conclusion as most of the products the deli ends up selling have already been decided upon by the co-managing partners and the elite, tiny handful of zcob lifers that have somehow attained influence.
Otherwise, for these tastings, I’ve developed my method: I make sure to have bread in front of me to both clear my palette and dip in the oils and vinegars. Water helps too. After sipping the oils and vinegars first, I’ll dip the ones I like in bread to see how they taste in action so to speak. Nobody else seems interested in doing this, they just sip, slurp, and move on to the next item, usually with disdain. Oh, they’re so experienced and professional I suppose, but who the fuck “eats” olive oil and vinegar out of the bottle?
This morning, Angie and I snapped the wish bone I had dried out from last night’s dinner (Molly Stevens’ “Chicken Do-Piaza” a.k.a. Indian-spiced chicken smothered in onions – “do-piaza” means “double onions”). We “wished,” pulled and no shit the middle portion snapped off, spun in the air and fell to the floor, leaving us both with nothing but a stub of bone in our fingers, no winners:
Is it an omen? Will neither of our wishes come true, or will they both?
Tuesday, May 22, 2012. I remember my solo trip to PDX, walking way out to the northwest corner of the city to revisit one of the “skinnies” the real estate agents had driven me out to the day before. I was determined to get a feel for how far out from downtown we were going to have to live given what we could afford. As in any city, the farther out you get from downtown, the cheaper the “rent” is. It was something like eight miles if I remember correctly – I had to take a train north for maybe five miles then I figured I’d walk the last three. I made it, but barely – I had developed a severe pain in my left hip joint – all the walking I’d done in the fairly new shoes I was wearing had apparently taken its toll. The neighborhood looked shittier on foot than it had from the realtor’s car, and it was drizzling rain. I finally made it to the house, stood for a moment in front of it, and felt nothing but indifference. Another vanishing point. When I started back, I was limping and had to stop several times, stretching my legs and resting wasn’t even helping; I was done for the day. It happens sometimes when you trek – some combination of your body chemistry, the weather, your shoes, your socks, what you ate, drank or what you didn’t eat or drink and obviously the wear and tear of the miles – adds up to some hip, knee, ankle or toe injury that just won’t let you go on. I limped the half mile or so to the nearest bus stop, and with considerable relief sat down for the ride to the the train station. My hip had improved a little during the rest and I was able to limp the quarter mile or so back to my hotel room.
I remember the feeling of failure, disappointment and resolution – I’d learned something important about exactly how very far from the interesting part of the city we were going to have to live if we had only Angie’s income to work with. It was similar to the realization I had after turning down that Macy’s job in Queens all those years ago. It’s reaching the vanishing point – the compromises become such that the reality no longer sufficiently resembles the “dream.” Inevitably, after any lingering disappointment and frustration finally fade, there’s a sense of relief, of allowing something to become inessential and then letting it go. It’s relief also to learn something about how you want to live – the relief of biophycomythological simplification and unification. You learn through experience that your vision or dream was not strategically sound – it becomes inarguably obvious and self-evident that this is not your mission. If it was, opportunities to carry it through would remain and you’d be energized to continue to pursue them. So, at the vanishing point, there is failure, disappointment, frustration, fatigue, loss, an acute awareness of the passage of time but also relief, stillness, quiet, acceptance, resolution and clarity. When you’ve truly acquired biophycomythological wisdom (which you can only get from taking action; from empirical experience) you can be at peace with that aspect of your quest. A goal may have eluded you, but you don’t feel defeated. This is also I think an aspect of the mythical or biophycomythological death that Campbell writes about within Hero in the chapter entitled “The Belly of the Whale,” and which is also discussed quite well in the film Finding Joe, namely the idea of no death, no life.
For me, the best part is the clarity, at least of knowing what you don’t want. For those of us that only learn our myth through trial and error because the music we’ve heard – the call we receive – is not clear to us, this process of elimination is imperative. It’s also painful and time-consuming, which can be a source of considerable frustration, of suffering. The frustration of course comes from that impatience that I hold onto so firmly – that anxiousness in the world of action for the outcome of my deeds, for an outcome to my biobiophycomythological work. I keep getting smacked around by reality and returning to that scene in The Razor’s Edge where Bill Murray’s character, grieving over the tragic death of his doomed love says, with sorrow but without lament, “I thought she was my reward for trying to live a good life,” finally concluding, without rancor, “There is no pay off.”
So what am I doing? I’m still denying myself, my “self” and ultimately the Self in service to the world of action. I keep making the biobiophycomythological mistake of trying to acquire only that knowledge which I think I need to assuage my ego, which of course is trapped within the limited aspirations of the first three chakras. My heart and spirit aspire to the wisdom that allows me to succeed in some way, a way that actualizes or otherwise realizes me but that also inspires others to mindfully and even glady pay me a reward commensurate to the synergy between my efforts and their benefits – their reward from my work. I’ll have found my place then, in the world-of-action and I can get on properly with my life. I don’t believe, at this point at least, that life is about giving it all away. However, the job of “costing” things, which is to say establishing the financial worth or value of something, is not straightforward; like morality, it’s a target that moves in space and time – what’s worth a million dollars today is worth nothing next year. Convince people of the value of a thing, price it correctly, which is to say competitively, and they will buy it. I believe wholeheartedly that I can somehow find a way to apply this to my life, that I can earn a living being who I am.
One of my issues, my limits, remains money. I want to make some. I want to make a lot. I want to make the amount of money that allows me to quit thinking about money. Or do I? What the fuck is it with me and money? Do I want to lord it over folks? No. Do I want to live in the lap of luxury? No. Do I want more and better stuff? I want to be able to purchase whatever it is that inspires me. Do I want to live in a penthouse downtown in each of my favorite cities and even some I haven’t discovered yet? No. I like this 3439 apartment. I didn’t like 1433, it wasn’t good enough, it didn’t fit, but this place does. So, the space and place, at least in A2 is fine – it’s not an issue except for not allowing pets. What then is the issue? What the fuck is still bothering me so much that I walk around in some state of angst every day?
What am I not doing? I’m not working as my own boss for one thing. I need, as my counselor in TX told me, to be the boss. It’s that simple. It sounds stupid, but it’s just the way it is – I cannot effectively be myself while working for someone else – I have to have ultimate authority over my work. I need to be able to try, fail and succeed all on my own terms. I cannot abide the authority of others over how I’m to spend my days. I’ve known this for some time but fail to accept it – to surrender to it – because I misinterpret it as folly, as arrogance, as impossible, even when I know it isn’t. Frankly, I’d rather not have to “deal” with anyone – I don’t find the idea of having employees, even one, to “boss around” desirable or interesting. I’m interested in autonomy, not control over others. So the last thing I want to do is sell my time to a role where I’m supervising others, being a manager at the z-deli for example, a job that’s been suggested to me in the round-about manner typical of zcob. Ugh. Fuck that. I’m just not interested in being a manager at zcob, period. What I’m interested in at zcob is being the fucking OWNER. I’m not even sure I could work for Ari and Paul as a co-managing partner – that still might not be enough autonomy for me. Is it crazy to think this way? No. Is it strategically sound to think this way? Is it possible to work for myself again, after I’ve tried and failed at my own small business? I don’t know all the answers, but I know that’s how I feel. I feel this in the depths of my bullshit biophycomythology and I can’t help it. Should I work on changing it? I have and I’ve failed countless times so how many more times should I fail before I accept myself and surrender to myself? God, what drivel and stupid yammering, but it’s part of what must be resolved in me to move forward because I feel fucking STUCK.
In the end, I don’t think “boss” is the right word for what I’m talking about; it gets me to the essence of the issue, but it’s loaded with other bullshit that doesn’t apply. The fact that I’m not interested in “bossing” people has never been a question for me, whether I’m good at being a boss or not. What I’m concerned with – what I desperately need in order to be who I am – is much like what Garbo said she needed: “To be let alone.” And as she pointed out, it’s not about “being alone” or otherwise not being with people or not being a part of the world, it’s just about not selling my time to someone and therefore giving them power over me to dictate any part of my day or for that matter my life. I want control of my life, every minute of every day. I want control over all of my time. I want to be let alone to do my own thing as I see fit. What is that thing, or what are those things? My vocations. It’s that fucking simple. But I also don’t want to be a so-called house-husband – I want to be seen (ego) as a man with a job – I want the self-respect that it generates.
 The Razor’s Edge, directed by John Byrum, (1984: Columbia Pictures), DVD.
 Wikipedia.org, “Greta Garbo,” 11.7.2013.