I couldn’t really write a Daily Rumpus today (not a long one certainly, until I decided not to). Why? Last night I was with rock stars. A performance, then to a bar, and I didn’t get home until one. Sleep patterns explain almost everything.
Steve Almond was there and he gave me a small, self-published book comprised of one section of very short essays about writing and one section of short-short stories, micro-fiction. His book is called This Won’t Take But A Minute, Honey and it has two covers and you have to turn it upside down when changing between the fiction and the essays. One cover, the essays, is a nurse gripping a large hypodermic as if it were a knife, while the cover for the fiction displays the legs and hand of a woman holding a whip. I haven’t read the stories yet. The essays are almost all less than a page with titles like, “Metaphors Almost Always Suck” and “Fuck Style, Tell The Truth” and “Excessive Emotional Involvement is the Whole Point.” I’ve been paging through, between reading The Savage Detectives, which is clearly going to take a very long time. In other words I have two books, a book full of writing and a book about writing. Still, I like Steve Almond, maybe too much, and it’s comforting to hear his voice. I have excellent taste in father figures and male role models. I’m attracted to kind men who donate their time to good causes, and brutal, inconsistent women, often needlessly cruel and selfish or full of love that they yank like a rug or that switches without warning into a mindless and violent rage. I’m not talking about the women who are friends. I have very good taste in friends. And I’m sure that some Freudian could make sense of my attraction bordering on desire for the men who resemble my mother and the women who resemble my father, but they’d be making something up. Telling stories. And there are better stories than those.
I’m on an Amtrak, there’s a wood and the trees are naked and the ground covered in orange leaves. Then the wood becomes dense and, from high enough, all those trees probably resemble a lake, but on the ground, passing quickly, occasionally I can glimpse a house. And the sky is grey, winter grey, with no threat of rain. Outside the weather is cold and steady, at least based on the colors from inside this cabin.
And I was thinking last night about celebrity, and how you’re only famous to people that have heard of you, and how the majority of people will never care no matter how well known you become. The door to the green room said, “Artists Only” and I didn’t like that. I was thinking about celebrity as Rhett Miller from the Old 97s took the stage. He spoke for five minutes about how he really just wanted to impress AC Newman, who was also in attendance. And then he sang songs and his voice was so beautiful, especially when he was joined by the band and took off his guitar and crooned David Bowie’s Five Years. I thought, That man is a rockstar. His hair was almost feathered, the top of his shirt was slightly open, just enough to be accessible. He wore his clothes in a way that said, “I love you” and also “if you have a knife plunge it in,” (but only metaphorically). And AC Newman, whose band The New Pornographers is one of my favorite, was not really a rock star. Not in comparison. But it’s all intertwined and nobody was overshadowing anybody. I also had this thought, That we were grown men (there were no women on the bill) in our thirties and late thirties and forties, but we were behaving like children. Not bad children, but there we were. We had held onto our youth and it was best not to delude ourselves about what that meant. Some of us might even be re-patterning our youth into something less fierce, less dark, more forgiving, more sexual, like a redrawn comic (I only say that because of an image I have of a tight red skirt made of plastic or latex drawn by R. Crumb). And also, it was New York, so that accounts for a lot. In New York there’s always something to do so it’s just as easy not to do anything. But everyone, everywhere, is in awe of someone.
The pretty waitress complimented my reading and I traded her a copy of my book for a sloppy joe.
Today is a day spent mostly on a train, which is very relaxing. You can’t get online and there’s nothing to do but read and write and stare out the window contemplating the scenery. Now a row of log cabins, now a road with no cars, now a field waiting for the season to return.
I saw my agent in the subway this morning. I was on my way to Boston and he was on his way somewhere closer. He was reassuring me about something, probably the future. It was then I realized I didn’t need to be reassured. I was basically satisfied (if just for a moment). I liked my editor (of course, I wouldn’t say if I didn’t, I know the bastard reads these notes), I was proud of my book, I was giving readings in people’s living rooms, readings which felt, when things were going right, like an extension of the book itself.
And it’s right as I’m writing this that the train passes another field, an unlikely field in New England in the fall, that is so green it’s like a goddam wool Gap sweater. Green like flourescence, or algae, or a fucking frog.