With their incessant and hypocritical drum-banging for states’ rights, the Republican party (or whatever passes for its present iteration ) governs as though they are perpetually the opposition party; they are an anomaly: historically it is the minority party that pushes for states’ rights while the majority attempts to maximize federal reach.
However, it is impossible to see this drum-banging as anything but a smokescreen to expand Republican donor power from the top down: for example, Graham/Cassidy would have transformed Medicaid subsidies into block grants under the discretion of the states, but nearly 70% of those states are under Republican governorship.
They are always on the defensive, their Koch/Mercer policies too unpopular and out-of-touch with the majority of the population to stand on their own legs; they must instead be persistent repudiations of forward progress, efforts to dismantle and tarnish the legacy of a progressive administration. Maybe that’s part of their strategy (if they even have one beyond bluster and premature keggers): it’s far easier, the messaging far more simple and visceral, to stand in opposition to something than it is to be for something — especially when the policies for which they must stand are indefensible, the cruel wants of a donor class steeped in hypocrisy and the 140-character ravings of reprehensible conman.
I recognize that I am talking to myself here, thinking out loud. And that’s fine. These unpolished scribbles are for me, a way to unclog my brain matter before the day’s work and explore ideas that would otherwise accumulate with no possibility for exorcism. They also function as a form of connective therapy. A way to push me to publish again, to pull myself out of a shell in which I’ve encased myself since the first book came out.
For almost a decade, I’ve let the Twitter slot machine (a brilliant comparison whose source I now forget) of promised reassurance mask itself as a balm for my shell when it was only feeding my OCD — indeed, these 30-minute “post and forget” pieces are a way to share without caving into the self-inflicted torture of caring what people think about these snippets of vulnerability and forcing myself to not seek to allay my insecurities about existing in a digital world by making them worse. Hence, a two-week disappearance from Twitter and–for now–a stream reduced only to sharing these pieces as quickly as possible and the movement of the Twitter app to an iOS folder called “Reassurance Seeking”; if someone communicates with me, I’ll see a notification and respond in kind, but my days of putting my face into the stream and drowning are on indefinite hiatus, if not at an end.
(Of course, this could change tomorrow: one of the key things about this digital world of ours is that it is always changing; there is never a right way or a wrong way to go about anything because the right way and the wrong way could swap places in a split second).
At the same time, I recognize the fact that being connected is essential in this little career of mine, even if it’s to a community of one. To cut myself off from tools of connectivity is insanity; to be a tool to connectivity even more so.
These pieces are an effort to utilize the medium / media in a manner with which I’m comfortable and, in offering a much more minimalistic existence, present an honest expression of who I am, for better or worse.
Reading: THE HAMLET, by William Faulkner // Listening: SEX, by The Necks.
“I got a room at the top of the world tonight
I can see everything tonight
I got a room where everyone
Can have a drink and forget those things
That went wrong in their life”
— Tom Petty, “Room at the Top,” from ECHO (1999)
Music is uniquely singular and universal; it is the power of the language to transcend boundaries and speak to all as it speaks to one. Few spoke as personally and universally as Tom Petty. And few had as good a time doing it.
The power of geniuses is that they operate on three planes: theirs, as the works they create are for themselves first, because they simply must (“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men—that is genius,” Emerson said); the collective world, as their works are heard/seen/read/studied by many or even all at one point in their lives (again, Emerson: “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”); and our own personal listening.
Tom Petty operated across all three with equal aplomb.
For all of his innumerable classics, it is his rarely-played 1999 album, ECHO, that remains the most important to me. It was my gateway drug to all of his music, to his thoughtful and relentless crusades against artistic injustice wrought by record companies and publishers. It is a distillation of him: vulnerable, relentless, rocking. Seeing him in concert the following year was a revelation: an artist fully in command of his talents with an unparalleled connection to his audience and his band.
A line in a 2000 interview in the Oxford American, published shortly after the release of ECHO, distills Tom Petty to his essence and longevity: “I just don’t want to do anything that I can’t feel like I’m doing honestly.” Tom Petty did everything with a stark honesty; his music will remain a roadmap to his path and the immortal sounds with which he left us.
Oh my my, oh hell yes.
Unclear if contemplating / executing a return to these pieces is the solution to an actual problem or the solution to a problem erected of my brain’s need to have problems to solve that are far less challenging than the narrative problems in the work in progress.
But I am here, so I might as well make the most of it.
The problem that I hope this iteration of my unvarnished meanderings will solve is a general lack of gusto upon returning to my office after breakfast as well as my recurrent quarterly loathing of online existence (but that can wait). I’m up here by 0600, depart to eat a diabetically-mandated breakfast at 0700, then return around 0750-0800, after the feeding of the dog children and subsequent general revolving door and a persual through the morning’s news (which may be at the root of the problem as I’ve yet to convince myself that I can safely avoid the news during these writing hours).
Whereas writing in my journal is the opening illegible release of the first block, its luster is lost upon the return, an obligation rather than a joy (before reverting to a joy as the WIP slog marches on). And so here I am, typing and hoping that these pieces will help return my brain to the writing and to the blank pages of the work in progress and perhaps, gasp, even give me something approximating enjoyment for even a scintilla of time before they too become relegated to the domain of obligation.
I hold out little hope that Senator McCain will do something dramatic in his Senate return today. He will vote yes on the MTP to debate the Better Care Reconciliation Act–or more appropriately, the Allow What Passes for Republican Leadership to Save Face and Not Get Angry Tweets at the Expense of the Lives of 22 Million Americans Act–and thus be hailed as an inspirational hero to the needs and wants of clueless rich white men.
In the aftermath of the passage of a vote to talk about it, there will be another beer party (probably); there will be endless equivocation (Well, Chuck, I think it’s important we at least debate the measure, even though I know most of my constituents hate it, are scared of it, and have no idea what’s in it; we’re so much alike in that way, I really feel for them, blah blah blah); there will be praise and applause and tight-smiled politician-emoting for Senator McCain—much of it deserved, but none of which is deserved for his likely vote today to deny others the same access to worry-free health care that will enable him to cast his vote in Washington today.
Never underestimate the lengths rich white men will go to to save face.
Looking back at the countless discarded iterations of the work in progress, one thing is clear: much of my effort has been focused on the exorcism of sarcasm and the simmering resentment towards the place I call home. Earlier drafts were written in a different headspace: I only saw the present as an amalgamation of the past and the perception of returning to this place as failure; I failed to see it for what it is. This normally would be the place that I would pontificate on what, precisely, “it” is, but I don’t know: maybe that’s the whole point of writing the book, to explore the question and deliver myself a dosage of understanding that makes my existence here more (present) / (tolerable) / (resembling a life) / (all of the above).
With each passing day, the Trump crazy train hurtles towards its inevitable derailment.
Nixon—for all of his paranoia—had the self-awareness and sense of history to know when the game was over; Trump lacks any of that. He replaces it instead with a superhuman ability to convince himself that his word is the truth and that his truth is reality. His is a life fueled by ego and the distortion of truth to his own benefit. There is no sense of place, there is no self-awareness; there is only his perception in that particular moment and, when reality—not the manufactured reality of glossy New York tabloids that sustained him but the reality of the world around him, of his past coming back to haunt him when he picks one fight too many, when he thinks himself too invulnerable, real reality—intrudes on that perception, all hell breaks loose.
It isn’t a question of if but one of when. In our last constitutional crisis of conscience, a paranoid yet self-aware and intelligent president resigned in disgrace; we have now only a paranoid tabloid junkie as we face this one. It will get far worse before it gets better.
I want to write these pieces more when I’m not writing them than when I’m writing them though their value becomes apparent in the act of writing them: a 20-minute warm-up to orient my brain into the necessary mode to be courageous enough to write horribly so that I may revise the work in progress into somewhat less horrible writing. They are a challenge, a challenge of endurance and of non-attachment: write them, post them, forget them, get on with the work.
After nearly two months and innumerable blinks in exhaustion and frustration, the summer’s Big Read, Miguel de Cervantes’s DON QUIXOTE, is complete. Resulting in a considerable to-read traffic jam (now 30+ books) exacerbated by the wonders of the local library’s $5.00 a bag book sale, a desire to read only short novels for a while, and an appreciation for how much literature still owes to Cervantes’s staggering work—the outsized influence of QUIXOTE on Borges (“Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”) / Quixote as precursor to the archetypal private eye: that figure that ventures through a world known or unknown and acts as a nigh-unchanging catalyst for revelations about those who populate that world, illuminating the views of the time and acting as a message in a bottle centuries hence; it is those around him who change—Sam Spade and Philip Marlow owe a debt to him / and, perhaps most head-scratchingly— how much of KICK ASS did Mark Millar base on QUIXOTE? (Note, these are only off the top of my head; I too am stunned that I included a luminary like Borges and a… less-than luminary like Millar in the same sentence).
A writing goal: rewrite QUIXOTE from the perspective of Rocinante and Dapple, easily the two most tragic figures in the tale.
Current read: IN THE COUNTRY OF LAST THINGS, by Paul Auster.
Local library sale over the last week. Went on Saturday for the final day, $5.00 per grocery bag. Came out with two and a half bags filled, one slung over my shoulder in my Guardian tote, the QUIXOTE traffic jam now a 30+ book pile-up, a glorious sight of spines and titles and possibilities.
Down ramps and stairs pointed out by persistent locative signage, the sale. A room of books begging to find a home and a row of VHS tapes that triggered fond memories of my grandfather renting movies from that library when I was growing up, movies he thought I should see. $0.50 rentals, or maybe $0.75. Row of red clamshells (for single-cassette films) and large charcoal clamshells (for the double-cassette films). Had I found some of the films I was raised on—the Bela Lugosi DRACULA (1931) (RIP Martin Landau), the double cassette charcoal clamshells of the Republic serials of William Whitney and John English, MYSTERIOUS DOCTOR SATAN (1940), THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (1941), I would have filled even more grocery bags with memories. Briefly tempted by a VHS copy of THE ROCKETEER (1991) though I talked myself out of it.
Among the treasures: 1957’s A TREASURY OF THE WORLD’S GREAT DIARIES, edited by Philip Dunaway and Mel Evans. Looking forward to digging into it and seeing what awaits. Also: an early hardback of ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE to join my early paperback copy of the same.
QUIXOTE progress: p. 815 of 891. Light at the end of the tunnel. The traffic jam honks.