The Hero With a Thousand Fiascoes

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020. I’m off until Thursday/Friday, thank heaven. This job is taking up far too much of mental and physical energy, as usual. I’m doing my best to remain aware of my tendency to over-invest myself in things but still recognize that it’s also my strength. Strengths indeed inevitably place you face-to-face with your weaknesses but I’m trying to remain cognizant of the predicament so as to minimize the suffering. I over-commit to things, including part-time employment, so that I risk becoming consumed or otherwise defined by it – I am my work, so be it. But I am not my work when it’s merely employment so I can break free from that sense of being gripped. It takes effort. And a practice. Like journaling, for example. I also have to let go of my self-criticism. I disparage myself for every day that I don’t edit TC2, for instance, and I have to admit to myself that I would blow off editing even without the job messing up my energies.

Why? Because I’m not getting any return on my writing investment. I have no feedback, no interest from readers. At least when I was working with my editor and my book designer there was a job to be done and a sense of urgency. And I rose to each challenge. I’ll never forget Robin V. lamenting that her intention of keeping the chapter openings on the recto was being foiled by a single chapter that needed another three-quarter page of text to somehow prevent an extra blank page from messing things up. So I just banged out an additional scene and filled it in and fixed it, made it a non-issue. And that made me feel more like a professional than anything, curiously enough. The editing did too, of course, especially when I fleshed out Neutic and the Captain and added another Frogman security guard. But that all seemed so natural as to be almost a given: the work was consuming and challenging but I intuitively regard editing as part of the job. Making up more story on the spot, writing to order, so to say, to fill in a hole in the book design? I proved to myself right then that I had what it took, that I wasn’t a fake, a dreamer or a wannabe who imagined myself a writer but when things got sticky couldn’t come up with the words.

There are perhaps many folks who imagine themselves to be writers because, I think, they believe they have writerly thoughts or writerly minds and are always waiting for the big inspiration to arrive that will drive them to actually sit down and commit to typing. They feel like writers but aren’t. Because they never actually write. Waiting to write isn’t writing. Inspiration takes many forms and it may make you a thinker, orator or teacher, for example, but not necessarily a writer. Pondering and having waking dreams and being in possession of an artist-craftsman perspective or receptivity has to be translated into workaday production of a material thing. Meanwhile, the sense that inspiration, the muse, comes from without isn’t incorrect because it does, I’m here to tell you because it’s happened to me. You do get the call. But what comes via the muse is not the whole story, not the whole hard won book. An idea arrives and the work of it begins. That’s the difference between a professional and an amateur, at least to me: the professional works out – crafts – a story with a beginning, middle and end and characters with arcs and that’s it. The magic is beside the point during most of the process. Which is to say as a writer you’re not in control of that magic, that muse-fueled inspiration as much as a caretaker of it. Because it mostly doesn’t happen. You write and it’s crap or it’s serviceable and you move on, writing. You’re tasked with working through it and pulling a vibe out of the void or merely pushing words around on the page in a form of mental idling, warming the engine of the cosmos up in your head, hoping for a glimpse of the open road and the zeal for hitting the gas the comes with it.

Which is why it’s so difficult to get started and keep going. It’s like building a campfire (to employ a different analogy) every damn time: finding the wood, hauling back piece by piece, prepping the kindling, arranging the starter sticks, getting a flame, coaxing and caressing it to life, smoking yourself out, being patient yet determined, fucking things up and fixing them, starting over as necessary. You have the vision of the crackling blaze but not the reality. So that when you’re sitting there finally enjoying the flames you’re well aware that it wasn’t magic, that you worked at it and are working at it still or the fire will go out, the flames will die – it’s all dependent upon your own personal energy corralling or otherwise organizing the available energy of life. Come what may. Because the next question people always get hung up on is whether or not what you’ve written is art or not. And I say who cares if it is or isn’t because I’m only concerned with the authenticity of the mythology which always takes care of itself. That is to say your writing rings true or it doesn’t and the artiness is irrelevant. Time may prove something to be artful and raise its regard to that of so-called “art” but, again, when you’re creating something authentic, something out of your heart or heart-mind that is tapping the energy of the cosmos, communicating that energy as if you’re a conduit then critique and evaluation is pushed aside. Thankfully. Otherwise nothing would ever get created. Write out what’s in your head. Keep going until you’ve written your 100,000 words or so, so that it will at least resemble a book in terms of quantity. That’s what I did. I didn’t just arrive at a novel length story for Time Crime, rather I set out to get the story that far, to novel length. Sure, your intuition and inspiration is key – that’s what makes the thing unique to you – but you’ve got to keep the architecture of a book in mind so as to finally get there. And then edit the shit out of it to craft it into something finished.

Enough about the art-craft of writing. There’s only so much discussion and analysis one can digest to any useful end. There are a lot of books that talk about it and ALLi is a place, for example, where I think too many folks who aren’t writing go to merely talk about writing. ALLi is best, in my opinion, for learning how to indie publish, not write. But writers, being lonely, exiled souls for most of our working lives, crave community. Which explains all the conferences and coaching and writing about writing and publishing that writers do when they’d be better off whacking away at their stories. Hey, I’m guilty of preferring anything, any activity besides that of my editing on TC2, TC3 or TC4. Or the idea of TC5 for that matter. I’ll find any diversion to keep me from having to work myself into the writing. But once I start it never fails that time flies and I feel whole and grounded and enjoy a sense of being properly alive afterwards. I’m referring to my fiction specifically in this sense because for this journal I’ve never suffered from having to overcome inertia. I journal as I breath or think, or something. I just write my way through life in this way, effortlessly. And that my blog turns out to be mostly unreadable junk is the result. But so be it. I have to trust the process and surrender to the practice. That my writing gets me somewhere, even if it’s only around and around inside of my own head, is a mystery and a faith – perhaps a faith in a Mystery – that I’m keen to hold onto, to cherish.

The job interview yesterday afternoon? I can tell you it sucked having to, first, endure wearing a damn mask (I had a bandana that kept slipping off my face) – I asked if it was required and a gal in customer service said, “Sort of,” but the lady interviewing me insisted on it and scooted back in her chair to ostensibly to maintain the six feet bullshit but then handed me a pen to sign a form. So, there you have the continuing insanity. My interviewer, who I think is the manager of the area, said the six feet was something many customers indeed freak out about. Which explains why some folks are relegating themselves to the night shift to avoid all the shit that ‘ain’t worth the lower pay otherwise. Anyway, I was maddeningly put through the same exact interview format, the same silly question and answer yadda, blah, and to point out the rote, corporate blasé nature of things, I was asked first off, “So what makes you want to work at Lowe’s?” Um….

We got through it, she seemed nice, she said, “I think you’d be a good fit for the job but give me until Monday, I have other interviews for the job.” Whatever that means. She asked me what I was looking to get paid and of course I told her I expected to make what I’m making now. “Yes, you’re making quite a bit more because you’re on the night shift….” She implied she’s ask for that on my behalf. And I couched my response so as not to appear to insist on that rate. But frankly I can’t imagine taking a pay cut so as to endure face masks and customers with gloves and all that shit even if it’s a day job. I don’t know, we’ll see, I’m going to leave it up to the cosmos and try not to fret about things.

Which is to say I’m determined to focus on defining who I am and who I’m not: namely, I’m a writer and an authorpreneur and I’m not a home improvement store employee. I just endure a job to pay for my investment in my authorpreneurship. I’m subsidizing my writing and publishing self-employment with outside employment only until I can break free. I have to keep reminding myself of this because it’s not easy to avoid getting sucked into the high-gravity black hole type annihilating void that will kill my real life and destroy who I am. Employment is merely a tool. My authorpreneurship is my vocation.

Locus, April 2020, cover
the listing, once again…

In other news I received my copy of the April Locus where my Carnegie Olson listing appears. The print version, like any print version, just helps to make it more real and hence serves to keep me going, albeit weakly, in the midst of zero sales and advertising expense and the impossible SILENCE.

DOP1 2012 VINTAGE POST:

The Hero with a Thousand Fiascos

March, 2012. This could probably be an alternative title for this book. Since I got fired from JCI in January 2010, I don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t felt a statement like this could describe my life. This “unconventional life” just keeps getting more unconventional. And more weirdly outside of my intention. One minute I feel like I’m the next zcob lifer and the next I can’t imagine working there past next week. Like any example of a bad biophycomythological fit I suppose, whenever I move towards them, it seems like they pull back then, when I back off it seems like they want to pull me in – a fucking frustratingly odd dynamic. My life remains a fish in a boat: impossible to get a handle on for all its ridiculous flopping about – it won’t get back in the water and it won’t fucking die either. I can’t tell if I’m supposed to just let it flop, re-double my efforts at getting in the cooler, or shovel the fucker back in the water and forget about the whole experience. It tells me I don’t know what I want, and I’m damn frustrated and disappointed with myself.

Angie was in southern California all week and from the first moments of her trip it seemed omens were popping up all over. First, Angie saw this billboard staring at her when she got off the plane in Denver:

Temple Grandin billboard in Denver, March 2012

It was spooky, because she really felt as if Temple were looking right at her. Springsteen’s new release, Wrecking Ball – another fucking terrible album by a guy I hate to say needs to consider doing something else with his time – contains a song that includes “In the Belly of the Whale” as part of the title, which is a chapter in Campbell’s “Hero” that I had just finished reading. Angie said she watched a movie about J. Edgar Hoover and Emma Goldman was in it. What the fuck? Like all omens, these things only mean anything in the context of your personal myth. You have to choose to give them importance beyond simple coincidence. If you’re tuned into your biophycomythology and especially if, like me, you’re looking for answers, then these “connections” mean something to you and seem to come “out of the blue” so to say, in places and spaces that are sometimes very bold, like the Temple Grandin billboard – you can’t not be smacked in the face by it. Other omens are more subtle and might not register as such until later when you reflect on your day or even your life. Bruce’s song is a pretty unambiguous omen to me. Emma Goldman (one of Ari’s favorite guides), who I just finished reading a book about a couple weeks ago and have never heard of outside of Ari’s writing, appearing in a movie that Angie was watching is a legitimate omen too. It’s odd as well that Angie is recognizing these connections and communicating them to me – they’ve become part of her life also, through mine.

That I’m getting omens right now, especially during this particularly challenging and foggy part of the adventure is great because it seems like good energy. But what’s frustrating as hell is exactly what’s frustrating about any omen: they don’t answer your questions, not even indirectly; they just give you a feeling and when you think about it, it’s not even always a good one. The experience of an omen is all intuition. It may make my nadi spin, but exactly why and what it means is mysterious. What the hell does the experience of Angie coming face-to-face with an enormous billboard of Temple Grandin in a Denver airport have to do with our lives and my life in particular? It feels like there’s a connection and a reason for the event, but what the fuck is it? What the fuck does it mean to have such a powerfully obvious and at the very same time mysterious experience of connection to yourself in the world? It inspires action but in what way? It also inspires just letting it be, but then of what use is the omen? They’re never, at least not for me, literal. Neither do they ever seem to be practical. The information or connection does not point to a specific action to take. Does seeing a billboard of Temple Grandin after really doubting my involvement in the food business mean that I should call or email Temple Grandin? Of course not. Should I look her up on the web to see what she might be up to? Why? Of what importance is this event? What the fuck is this telling me? Why can’t I figure it out? Why the fuck do I care?

In the end, it always seems to me that omens are simply your heart talking to you. The heart rarely says “Go do this specific thing.” It usually just says “Take this next step; lean over this way; do this one thing; point yourself in this direction versus that direction.” Gauri T., who is a Zingtrain employee and who came from the corporate world (I think she worked for General Motors), seems very sensitive to all this stuff and has a vog describing her “community building” efforts within zingtrain and zcob where she sees part of her role as sometimes just placing hands on people’s shoulders and gently turning them to point in the right direction. I think that describes what an omen can do if “handled” properly. It’s a lot like hearing a call-to-adventure, but I think omens are usually something you experience while engaged in your adventure. They can start you off, but the call is different – that’s like a whole shift in your being. Omens seem more like reminders – the hands on your shoulders. Except sometimes they can be so fucking vague and indecipherable. Yes, I’ve allowed myself to drift too far away from farm animal welfare and maybe that’s the Temple Grandin thing. Yes, she’s a person who overcame great adversity to accomplish something she believed in, which anyone can use as inspiration for their own life. But how exactly does that apply to me?

It makes me turn this idea of a humane slaughterhouse in Ann Arbor, maybe within ZCoB, around in my head again, and maybe that’s just what the omen is for – to get me working on this idea. I know I can make an omen more mysterious than it has to be. I keep trying to plan my life and life keeps fighting the plan. So, maybe instead of wasting my time applying for entry-level, unskilled manual labor jobs within zcob, just to get a full-time job (because that’s what my survival and habit-driven mind tends to do), I should follow my own advice and move towards what I really might want. Fuck the lack of confidence – yeah, life’s kicked me in the nuts, big deal. The food cart was a fiasco indeed but only because I let it be. Joanie (by way of Ari I think) asked me to be a part of Camp Bacon III’s Street Fair because, as she said, she heard that I was there last year. That was a good experience and Ari must have thought it a worthy contribution if he wants the hh cart back. Joanie asked me about it last night at the cheese party at RH and I thought it over and responded today with a “yes” even though I don’t really know why except that there will be pigs there and I can get one more shot at serving h-cheese hoagies and maybe having someone within zcob change their fucking mind about whether they’re worthy zcob food or not. It’s like an opportunity for a swan song or a new beginning; either way, I’m good with it. As much as I really don’t like the food cart thing, it’s got this one last possibility as an opportunity generator for hh. Also, should things not go well, or just fall flat, it seems to be a way for me to get closure on this weird zcob-hh debacle whereby the h-cheese just never got in the right hands in the right context at the right time and therefore died a curiously quiet death. Either that, or misunderstood something from the beginning – maybe nobody at zcob wanted to be asked? When I do this gig on June 3rd, maybe even I will finally be weary of and done with the hh h-cheese idea and that’s all I want: to move forward or be done with it instead of being in mid-ocean with no wind for my sails.

I shot straight with the Concentrate editor about the marginal status of hh and as expected she took the opportunity I gave her to bale out until things improve or I change plans. No surprise. I told her it’s certainly a story, but not a pretty one. Folks are understandably not interested in the struggles of those without a “platform” of success. The rise to success is worth writing about as is the fall from grace, but if you’re neither one of those, then you’re not news – you’re just like everyone else and that’s boring. So be it.

I should comment on the “trial shift” and interview I had yesterday for the “porter” (translation “stock boy”) job at the z-deli. I chugged through it and it was just a lot of manual labor – accepting deliveries, struggling to negotiate down absurdly long, narrow staircases with loaded hand trucks, unloading supplies onto myriad storage shelves within the catacombs of the z-deli’s basement labyrinth and otherwise performing mind-numbingly tedious and bafflingly overly complex material-handling chores, including of course the requisite breaking down of boxes, getting them to the impossibly remote recycling bin on the other side of the building and in somebody else’s parking lot, blah, blah, fucking blah – just entry-level material movement shit. Oh, and, while embroiled in data entry for received orders – talk about tedium! – one is required, absurdly, to keep an ear open for the next delivery truck’s arrival downstairs, which is to say you literally have to listen out the fucking little window of this claustrophobic shared office space for the tell-tale honk or air-brakes of the delivery trucks that arrive throughout the day. What the fuck, Ari – you’ve got so many fucked up, badly managed, horribly stupid tasks that need streamlining (or elimination) that sometimes I think you’ve never had a proper job in your whole fucking life – can’t you see how stupid this shit is and fix it? Of course Ari is the guy who considers it worth boasting about that for ten years some poor, pathetic deli-slave was required to make a three-hour round trip (in good weather) down to some Detroit bakery to get the only rye bread zingerman’s thought worthy for their mostly mediocre sandwiches. Anyway, back to the stupid porter job. The only thing that doesn’t break your back is the tedium of recording all the invoices line-by-line on the inventory tracking system. Blah, blah, why would I care about that shit at this point in my life? Mindless unskilled and physically debilitating hard-ass work for no money. Talk about underemployed. Rodger (sic) B., the third co-managing partner at the deli, is who the job ultimately reports to and he was as undecided as I was as to whether I was the man for the job or not. He’s convinced as I am that the first more glamorous job that comes along I’ll apply for and take off. You can tell that’s all they see there: youngsters and retirees who show some interest only to awaken to their doom and run sceaming back into the halls of college or into the more lucrative halls of corporate America. He said he needs at least a year commitment to the job because he’s trying to solidify that receiving end of the business. I would be the same way towards some asshole like me who’s way overqualified and way too fucking old to be looking for a bottom-feeder job like that. He’s right when he says zcob will put a lot of training and time into me and then I’ll leave at the first chance. That’s not an insult to the cool guys working that job – Nick and Ryan. But really, to be my age with my experience and skills and be just schlepping deliveries around at the bottom of the zcob food chain, all the while just hoping to move higher up the ladder someday when I’m fucking fifty years old or some shit – what the fuck is the point? It’s just me grasping at something full-time within zcob, or me just grasping period. Like I told Rodger and Jeff, it’s not about the money. I said “Whatever it is, it’s not much; it’s irrelevant; I’ve made my money and I didn’t like it.” However, the combination of no money and no means to advance into a role that’s suited to me just seems like a waste of everyone’s time. I shouldn’t have tried it out I guess but I really didn’t know it’d be such a menial, low-level spot. We both realized that I’m just like a young applicant who doesn’t know what the fuck he wants to do yet. Not a recipe for success. Vague goals, vague results. I’m going to talk it over with Angie but I should really just tell Rodger and Jeff thanks but no thanks.

Saturday, March 10, 2012. So that’s what I did. I told Rodger and Jeff I was looking for a springboard to other things and not the long-term commitment they were looking for. I said it wasn’t work that I was suited for, which is something any of Ari’s anarchists might say and it’s completely true. We’re all trying to thrive instead of just survive and that’s what I told Rodger and Jeff. I thanked Ari, Lisa and Kristen for the good word and Nick and Ryan for showing me the ropes. Anyway, I feel much better. It wasn’t going to be pleasant devoting forty hours a week to being a stock boy at this point in my life. Heavy, unrewarding work and it really felt like too much of a compromise, so I’m glad I’m learning to quit making all the same mistakes – taking jobs I don’t want just because I can’t think of anything better. Trying to make jobs into something that they aren’t and never will be – that’s a very old and very wearisome trick of mines. I’m trying to change for the better. So, I’m backing away from zcob again and we’ll see where life leads. A door will open and it’s another lesson on how difficult and easy it is, all at the same time, to follow your heart. Ditch your pride and your desire to please others. Discard the life you’ve planned….

This is clarifying what’s left of my vision. Zmo isn’t going to be part of it either – they also have nothing to offer a person like me long term. It’s okay; it’s essentially light-industrial assembly-type work, much like working at PPC all those years ago except it’s a food shipping biz versus a grocery store signage biz. In either case, the folks who are suited to it need not be interested in the things I’m interested in. There aren’t many jobs, working for somebody else at least, that are going to satisfy me; I really do know a lot about what I want and don’t want in work, it’s just so difficult sometimes for me to admit and accept it. I know when I’m jazzed and when I’m not, and I’m not giving in until I have to. There’s always time to get desperate and just make a shitty living. I still want it all and I’m going to find a way or die trying. In the end, like I said, I might just make a better zcob customer than employee and that’s okay. Maybe I ended up in Ari’s book in the “front porch” section for a reason – maybe that’s where I really belong. We’re off to the American Meat dinner at RH which is supporting the film of the same name – it’s all about the shit I’m into regarding farm animals and farm-to-fork issues. I also got an invite from the USDA to attend this year’s “round table discussion” focusing on “technical issues and regulatory concerns.” I haven’t cancelled my 989 Grant yet, so I’m still on the mailing list and damn if I might just show up in Lansing or wherever the fuck they’re having it. I’m good at that shit. Maybe I’ll indulge the shit I have a flair for instead of forcing my round ass into a square hole.