Saturday, July 4, 2015

sortie s'il vous plaît

"He has the typical bleak junky dresser, with a full length mirror on each creaky door, inside of which hang battered coats from New York with the lints of the pockets strong enough to boil down in a spoon after 30 years of drug addiction -- In many ways there's a great resemblance between the dope fiend so called and the artist so called, they like to be alone and comfortable provided they have what they want -- They don't go mad running around looking for things to do 'cause they got it all inside, they can sit for hours without movin.... yessir, the dope fiend and the artist have lots in common."

I just finished my second novel (typing 'The End' earlier this afternoon with the gusto of someone medicated on addies or worse) and then like kismet I get a text from Alex.  Alex, a good friend of mine that goes way back to high school days, reconnecting during college times, Alex who wants to come by and smoke some bud with me, get high with me, shoot the shit with me.  I like Alex because he's nice and unassuming, he's smart and does not try hard for my affections.  He just wants to hang, and talk, which is kind of refreshing because most of the men I hang with just want to sleep with me, which is OK I guess, but it also puts some kind of weird pressure on the evening and I have to look my best and act my best and none of that stress accompanies a visit from Alex, cause he just wants to talk.

Alex is very educated but he's educated on so many different unconnected subjects that it is sometimes hard to understand what he's talking about and what he means, because he jumps from thing to thing, but he's actually really quite sad, sort of depressed in a way, feeling futile in his day to day, mostly because his education and knowledge make him see the world differently, and he had to pay dearly for that education, as did I, and it makes us kind of rightly cynical and almost resentful of the knowledge we have gained.  It came at such a high price, and this type of stuff should be free, speaking of knowledge, because those who can be educated and enjoy it, should be educated regardless of their ability to pay out of pocket for the privilege of listening to overrated, pretentious professors talk about sticks and bundles.  Those who don't enjoy it, shouldn't pursue it, and shouldn't waste society's money in the process.  It seems pretty simple to me except for the paradigm, again society created, that says we should all, rich and poor, intelligent and unintelligent, pursue a worthy higher education.

Alex and I agree that there is too much education indulgence spent on those who don't want it, can't get it, and who have been pushed into it.  Of course we come off as assholes to liberal minded people who think EVERYBODY should get the opportunity to go to college.  C'mon, only those who would benefit from college and interested in college should go.  These bleeding hearts who cannot differentiate or just want more loan money for their already overpaid professors want EVERYBODY to waste their current and future money on the "American Dream" of prosperity, not wanting to admit that many people can achieve that so-called "American Dream" by not going to college, by going to a trade school or being entrepreneurial. They either do not realize or, more likely, do not care that these people not meant for the intellectual rigors of college, could actually make far more money doing something they actually like.  But that's a rant for another time and place I suppose.

What I meant to say and what I started out saying was that Alex is different than me in some ways because he has a wider range of knowledge (still paid for but at least absorbed well), on many different topics -- whereas I have shunned the math and sciences young, having seen I was no good at gleaning any of the good information from them, right-brained, so focusing instead on history and literature, later the whole volume of American law, saw my strengths and pursued them vigorously, righteously, stupidly -- Alex, being a Jack of all Trades so to speak, connects all of this knowledge together sort of subtly.  He takes his vast education and applies it to conversation, which is at times hard to follow because his connections are abstract at best.  Many of his words and points are disjointed, so you really have to be educated yourself to truly understand what he's getting at, his direction and thought patterns, when he talks your ear off.  But I do like men that talk because it takes the responsibility off of me and I don't really like to talk anyway; I'd rather listen.  No one hates a chick who just listens.  This is why I have so many friends.

It's typically interesting though, the stuff he talks about, and Alex knows what he's talking about, the only problem is that most people cannot connect why he said it and what it has to do with the previous sentence. So they think he's mad instead.  He reverts back to things said minutes before and some people just can't handle it, don't know how to decipher it, wondering why he's reverting back to it.  Nevertheless, I try to follow it and usually do because as I said, I've known him a long time and we are both well-educated, suffering individuals, cut from the same thread, or cloth, or whatever you call it, trying to make it in a world that is dead-set against us.  We both really just want to make it, not really knowing what making it entails, the same kind of struggles I'm sure, but we want it just the same.  And even though we acknowledge we don't have much to offer, our idealism keeps us putting one foot in front of the other, and then maybe, godforsaken someday, success will find us.

Meanwhile, we pretend we have everything figured out because of all the knowledge we paid for, adoring our time as young enough to see our primes still somewhere there in the unimaginable future, prospects still to offer.  Of course those days are bleaker now than they used to be, ah me, cost of growing up in the 1990s. We are fucked beyond repair (in fact I say at least once a day under my breath "I'm fucked" and I mean it), but at least we share the burden of education without worth with more than a million other generationals thinking the same as we do, and just like us hoping for more, talking so extravagantly about nothing that makes money, presumptively, thinking about our productivity, our late-birthed progeny, might reap the rewards of our suffering, laughing at things we can't fix, rationalizing our thoughts into perfect oblivion, or at least an acceptable distortion of reality, quieting the ideas of the nothing we are begrudgingly accepting as the cost of living, all the things that come with our failing, falling, this is our tired, unfulfilled destiny we are now semi-sort of living.  I hate it because our lives mean nothing to those who came in the 1980s (double entendre) but still, at least now, they resent our youth, and at least that's something we can still call our own, but it's compromised by society's failings, so really we are just sacrificed and supposed to be OK with it because we are young and dumb kids that don't realize the things we are supposed to have.

Despite the stunningly sad romantic words of tempered virtue, the blues of our particular, defeated, embattled and shattered generation, millennial devastation, I'm not here to tell a tale of woe, so dumb and unkempt, would only be the words of the unconfident, insecure anyway, and yeah I'm not meant for that.  I talk about Alex now because I feel that we share the same cause, the same idealism, the same unrequited, idealistic and somewhat naive hopes for the future.  But I do not have romantic interest in Alex, he's not quite so confident or arrogant as I typically like, and he doesn't take charge, would rather just stand there as other men take what they want, gallant in a way, I like those men better for some reason and I don't know why.

But I do have intellectual interest in Alex because he's smart and well-intentioned.  Most of the time I'm only one of those things, which makes me envy him in a way.  He's just himself, being the guy that knows everything that people do not realize and can't realize because they are too dumb to follow his train of thought clearly and elaborate on it intelligently.  Alex is kind of aloof but at least he's being himself.  In effect, we are "fatal lovely friends" who are not really all that bad or mad at all, maybe just misunderstood, because we like drugs and don't believe in god and have fiercely intellectual discussions and experiences, some people find it intimidating.

I find it enlightening! And here I am with my second novel done and I really want the distraction of listening to Alex talk about all of his unconnected subjects, the best of the ones looking to make it, truly MAKE IT, like me, only poor Alex I sort of feel sorry for because he thinks he might make it and I already know that most of us won't make it, only crave for it, while our veins just submit and take it, until we die forsaken or taken, somewhere in middle thirties, back alley, from a drug overdose or perhaps exposure, like Neal Cassady, the tragedy of a writer only famous as a character in someone else's book.  good god! haha.

Course I want for more, more than just a footnote or an asterisk in someone else's memoirs or the story of their life, but it's hard to make it, especially when the reading public only wants masturbatory content for their teenage daughters, yuck!  It would be nice to be back in the beatnik days, beat generation praise, or some day back when writing actually mattered, when agents weren't just profiting over fanfic fodder, terrible story and even worse writing.  But it remains such a shortsighted conspiracy, trying to appeal to those with the key, the ones who make the choices of what to sell, and when I see what's being doled out to the masses, it's almost a travesty, no one these days understands mastery, catastrophe, it's almost misery, seeing what they try to sell to me, sex stories for teenage girls, vampires, zombies, ugh.  Pity this, and pity the ones who have fallen to this special brand of marketing, the ones who actually buy this, wait with bated breath for this, think it's transcendent. 

Well Alex might make it yet, as he says, all his grand plans, stock market and getting rich, could be something someday and if he does, make it that is, he will probably have no interest in talking to me about dumb things, or should I say irrelevant, irreverent things, so I better enjoy all the talk, talk, talking while I still can, the company of a man without the pressure, because the measure of guys just listen to you, vaguely, in the hope of bedding you, clumsily, even the hot ones with tons of experience, are typically dumb and only absently endearing, and only while they picture someone else, usually a porno chick, repeating words they heard on the latest spiderman flick.  It's perverse, but also the way of society so I'm kind of on board, I'm not a feminist by any standard, I've long realized that I want my life divided by two types of men specifically, the intellectually versed on one side, and then the sexual extroverts, unselfish lovers on the other side.  I've found that the two, unfortunately, do not intersect well.

So anyway, Alex comes over to smoke bud.  He wants to share his suffering, the suffering of a guy who doesn't pick women who can understand him thoroughly.  Tonight he talks about his dissatisfaction over a past lover who decided she wanted nothing to do with him after he pursued another girl, stoned and feeling bad, he admits he wants her back, but it seems it might be too late, she's enraged by his deceit and also probably trying to separate from his big confusing thoughts, and I notice he only seems to care a lot about all this heartache and girl woe when he's high, the girl that I guess broke his heart, he doesn't really care about until he's high and missing her, or missing something she used to do, I have no idea actually.

As Alex is talking about missing her, and all the suffering he has gone through, I suddenly realize that Alex is just a crazy lonely poet speaking out an "endless muttering monologue of poems" hoping that anyone and everyone will listen to his plight, suggest the right thing to do.  I'm pretty sure he came to the wrong person, it's certain that I'm the last one to give him advice on matters of the heart, or even relationships, I jumped ship, years ago, and realized for me the best thing would be dating many different guys and just learning about life in general, about different people, what matters to them, their own idealisms, basically just reap from them some kind of knowledge.

We smoke until we are both devastated; I pass out and he goes home presumably, intuitively, to do the exact same.  I think he's destroyed and I'm close to it myself.  Next morning I feel semi-strung out, but not in a big way, not ghost territory, just exhausted, misbegotten, looking for what I lost and what I still need.  I need to get that true inspiration, dedication, to a story that is more than just words, words, words, empty plot lines don't cut it anymore.  Kerouac discovered that the hard way, and Hemingway, he might have been the last great workhorse of the craft.  That reminds me, some asshole guy I fucked a few times when I was twenty-five told me I was no Hemingway, which I feel like was just his way of lashing out at me for saying that I wouldn't date him even if he was single.  To be fair to me, he never read a single piece of my writing and so he didn't really know what he was talking about, he could have been right or could have been wrong, but he was in no position to make that determination regardless.  Who's to say what I might have made of myself if I had not been misdirected by a three year fruitless endeavor.

Anyway, I digress, as is my pattern, humoring tangents as they come to me.  That next morning I talked to my agent, a true maverick, and she told me to bring in my new manuscript although I could tell she was not really that enthusiastic about it; she's thinking of dropping me.  I think she's come to expect of me very little, often remarking on the myriad of ways I waste my talent and will never live up to the first book.  I'd like to prove her wrong but I have no idea anymore of what can be called good or bad or mediocre.  Nevertheless, I'm still determined to have her read it, while I slink away to some dark alley and worry over what she will think about it.

So I run with my little disc, flash drive holding the contents of my new novel, to the closest print shop. Unfortunately, much to my chagrin, Bob is working the front desk today. I sigh loudly and almost turn away.  I really don’t care much for Bob. He is a character that needs no introduction because most people would not want to meet him. He’s the kind of guy you might find working at an off-track racing hole in the wall, somewhere in nowhere New York, north of 112th. But this is Astor between Lafayette and Broadway, and somehow Bob has made his way down to the East Village to pester me.

Anyway, as I walk in, Bob eyes me and he looks like the scumbag I often feel like.  But he's worse because he's a forty-something male with long stringy hair and unshaven face, and a sneer, lecherous, pestilent, and I'm immediately reticent.  I don't want to deal with him but I do need my manuscript printed because I don't like sending my words electronically, despite modern times.  Now I'm loitering at the door, wondering if I should walk up to his counter or bail.  Bob's corrupt and unbathed exterior always makes me vomit a little in my mouth.

Bob, what a scumbag. He has a patchy beard, all the way down to his neck, and brown beady eyes that always dart back and forth, undoubtedly thinking perverted thoughts, and it makes me worry for my own safety. I fear he is trying to plan a calculated attack against me, that will be more clumsy than calculated in the end but will still leave me worse for the wear. He's basically the guy you don't want to find in a back alley alone, without a gun, or at least a rape whistle.

Of course Bob is also the type of guy who can’t take a hint, no matter how obvious that hint is made, because he is deranged, and he truly thinks that he is ‘god’s gift to women.’ I'm serious.  I’ve actually heard him qualify himself as such to other employees. Bob brushes every insult off, viewing contempt as a lofty challenge, hitting on women incessantly as they come into this shop, caring not that they approach him with fear and contempt. Bob is an advertisement for every other print shop in Manhattan.

Ultimately, I decide to brave his smarmy assaults, borderline insults, even though I know I should be keeping a better lookout for my general safety, because I really need to advance my career and I don't want to get held up looking for another print shop on my way uptown.  Bob might be the worst thing I've encountered in New York, and that's saying a lot, but right now, I'm willing to take the chance that he will make an unsavory advance, just for the sake of convenience.

So I nod at Bob in order to be polite and then I quickly walk back to the computers purposefully in order to print my book, hoping he won't try to intervene for no reason. I can handle this by myself at the  self-serve area. I pull my credit card from my pocket and feed it to the machine.

With one eye over my shoulder, knowing Bob will approach me at any time, I load my document onto the computer and quickly send it to the printer. Unfortunately there is like two hundred pages, a large number that does not lend itself to very fast printing. I log out and remove my flash drive just as the printer begins its magic. But as I pocket my flash drive, I immediately begin to smell Bob -- he's the type of guy you can smell, the rancid breath and body odor of a guy who doesn’t believe in showers -- before I see him, approaching me with a tourist’s calm, the kind of silent trepidation that we were all taught to fear in grade school. I bite my lip and turn around in order to greet him, not wanting him to come upon me from behind, not knowing what he might do.

It’s nice to see you again, he sings to me in a creepy, unnerving, feathery light voice. I offer him a tight smile and regard him with classically narrowed eyes and clenched teeth. Yeah, I’m just printing out a manuscript, I relay to him as I pick up the pages from the printer and start collating them. I almost don't even care if they are in the right order because Bob is making me so unnerved, I just want to grab what I can and burn out.

Oh a manuscript, that’s righteous, he continues in that creepy voice of his, smiling with a kind of derangement that would make even psychopaths uneasy. He looks down at the pages stacked in my hand and exhibits that trademark lecherous smile, so revolting that I cannot help but turn away to get some composure.

Hey, didn’t you tell me that you hang out at Pegu on Houston, he questions me, pointing his index finger as he takes a few steps closer, getting right up in my face. I swallow once and look away, breathing a silent breath as I feel my muscles tighten, a common reaction to terror and fright evoked from characters like Bob. Even though I am still somewhat under the influence of opiates, my nerves are getting frayed by his presence. I can feel my junk cells sweating.

I'm frozen with uncertainty while he stares at me expectantly, his beady eyes unblinking, his derangement on full display. I feel like he might try to murder me if I say the wrong thing. I swallow once and then gather my courage.  Oh yeah, sometimes, I reply uncomfortably as I step away in order to continue collating my document. It has printed fully now so I’m stacking it up and trying to make the pages align so I can bind them and then get out of here.

Before Bob can persist, I interject. I need this bound, can you do that for me, I ask as I hold out the pages, hoping to change the subject, get him started on a task and in the meantime, get him the hell away from me, as fast as humanly possible. He’s threatening my protective heroin bubble, and I hate him for it. I just want to make it out of here alive and with my manuscript bound and ready for the critical eyes of my agent.  Is that too much to ask for?

Absolutely, I can bind these pages up for you real nice, he states slowly and with an unsettling nod of his head. He reaches out and grabs the manuscript from my hands. Cautiously I let him have it but I'm scared every minute.  Then I wait for him to start working on it, but he doesn't even move. He just continues to stare at me and nod his head. What the hell is he waiting for? I flex my jaw and look around; he continues to stare and nod, appearing almost transfixed.

What’s wrong, I finally ask, hoping to move this exchange along. He eyes me steadily.  It’s just that I’ve been there, at Pegu and I never see you, he persists, interrogating me strangely in the middle of this empty print shop. I look over at the front door anxiously, wishing another customer would come in and force him to stop trying to make unwanted small talk with me. But no one wants to save me today.  I hate everyone.

Well I’ve been kind of busy, I say with a nervous laugh, gesturing toward the manuscript in his hand. I’ve been focusing on my career, trying to stay in and write instead of going out, I add. He follows my finger down toward my manuscript and then nods. Oh, right, he exclaims loudly. Yeah, so can you bind it, I got a meeting, I tell him impatiently.

Of course I can, Bob assures me.  Like right now, I add when he doesn't move.  Oh, right, he nods and finally begins to head back toward the binding machines. I breathe a huge sigh of relief. So what’s this one about, he calls out over his shoulder. I sigh again, this one out of exhaustion, and then I look around the store hopefully once more, almost begging silently for someone to enter the premises. But no one does.

I look to the floor in deplorable sadness and resolve to answer his question ambiguously.  Um, well it’s not really about anything in particular, I shout over as I watch him set up the binding machine. I don’t want to talk about my book with Bob, the lecherous print shop guy. C’mon, you have to give me something, a little something, he responds hopefully as he feeds my manuscript into the machine. I raise my eyebrows and wonder how I can be nice without putting him off or angering him.

Well I guess it’s about my generation and some of the problems we are facing, I finally respond simply, offering him a shy shrug to indicate my reticence in expanding on characterizations put in place inside my novel. Oh, our generation huh, he replies interestedly, making me feel as though he believes we are of the same generation and that my story could be applicable to him, which is actually quite insulting because he is at least a good twenty years older than me.  But I let him have his fantasy because I don’t care enough to correct him and I also do not want to anger a potential psychopath who still, I might add, has my manuscript in his self-abusing hands.

I turn around and look at the door, still hoping to see a customer enter. When I turn back, Bob is suddenly right there, leaning over the counter, putting his face up close to mine. I flinch, evolutionary instinct, startled and unnerved. That’s a righteous storyline, I bet it will sell millions, he says to me enthusiastically as he shakes his greasy mullet for my benefit. Thanks, I respond, smiling my graciousness and trying not to look too scared in the process.

He hands me the pages with pride. I merely nod my approval and ask him how much I owe. Oh, it’s on me, he answers with a wink. It’s flattering of course but I don’t want to owe this maniac anything so I insist on paying. But he waves me off. Just give me an autographed copy when it comes out on the shelves and we’ll call it even, he bargains with another wink. And it will give us another opportunity to hang out, he adds, his wildly unmaintained eyebrows wiggling with delight at the prospect. I cringe outwardly and try to pay for the binding job one more time, but he denies it.

Finally I relent. Okay, well thank you, I offer with the most charming smile I can muster. Bob nods and I grab hold of my manuscript, hoping to get out of here before he adds conditions precedent to this free binding job. And maybe we’ll see each other at Pegu sometime, or is there another place kids are going to now, Bob shouts out at me curiously as I reach for the door handle and try to disappear. I turn around and nod shyly. Nah, Pegu is the place, I tell him, lying because I never want to have to deal with this specimen ever again. I need to find a new print shop.

Back out on the street, I shake my head and try to put Bob out of my mind. His grossness, the grotesqueness of his character, doesn’t have to plague me all the way uptown. I jump on the subway and head to my agent's office to drop it off. I’m pretty hopeful because I think it came out fairly well in the end and anyway it has to be better than the nothing she has grown to expect from me.  I had enough inspiration from nondescript sources to make it thoroughly dark and twisted. Though I’m sure she will have some critical remarks, as she always does, hopefully for the most part she will think it is good enough to champion.

Of course I’m sure it will come with its own set of inherent obstacles, whatever praise could be forthcoming. I’ve been in the publishing business long enough to know the agonizing procedure of pushing a work of written art through the metaphorical birth canal. They don't accept what is formed, they want more, they want a combination of novelty and harmony, without abandoning sanctimony in the process.  My work will surely fail those measures.

So they will want to edit and re-edit and eliminate certain things, probably the things that they would consider peripheral to society’s little box of right and wrong, moral and immoral, the little boundaries that make us mercenaries of the mundane. They will probably want to change it so much that it will become unrecognizable to me, cut, mixed and sewn back together, a regular Frankenstein of what I originally created.  And then I'm supposed to be okay with it, nay, immensely proud of it, (snort of derision like Shiloh) but I doubt it.  But it is what it is, and for a paycheck people do all kinds of things.  I'm not really all that different, even if I like to think it.  We all sell out to get our names and personas recognized, our talents dignified, vilifying the ones who made it before us, because at the end of the day, that's all we are left with.

I guess I'm in for an uphill battle, sacrificing my taste for making it, wondering if the two can coexist, it seems too idealist, we can't exactly keep our voice and poise in this world of technological noise, all the terrible taste and impatience for story lines and violence.  I guess I'll just have to see how my novel survives all these obstacles.

Sometimes I wish for the madness of another time.

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