December 15, 2013

Defiance

I'm a writer against my will. I wanted to be a musician. A drummer. A jazz musician. A piano player. One thing or another worked against it. I tried the guitar. Three guitars. Then the piano. Two uprights and a $400 keyboard I had to hock and couldn't get out. I never got to the drums though I have perfect rhythm. The others are percussive too. Where I failed was not looking for instruction. I always believed I could learn things on my own because I had to most of the time. I finally found a composer in San Francisco who taught me something about the structure of the blues and to fundamentally read music. I had to let it slide because there was always the necessity of working for a living and I did not want to be bum.

I played the ironing board as a teenager. You never saw anybody play the ironing board? I was the first and probably the last. I sat on a bar stool in front of my dad's old console H.H. Scott radio with a pair of sticks and a mirror at the end to watch my style and drove my mother nuts. He'd been dead for months, run over by a car. I played along to jazz and early rock and roll of the fifties. Then I went in the Marine Corps at 17 and almost forgot that I wanted to be a musician. Having to express myself from surviving in a world of pain I became a writer instead. It took me years to become one. But I never tried to publish anything. Nothing seemed right. None of it matched what I thought was good writing. Hemingway. Camus. Sartre. Faulkner. Flannery O'Connor. Annie Dillard. Isak Dinesen. Simone de Beauvoir. Shakespeare. Joyce. Cormac McCarthy. Others. Maybe I set my standard too high. I published a lot of newspaper articles in the sixties and seventies but it was nothing like good writing. Materialistic and pretentious Establishment doofuses sucking up to politicians and editors. Half-truths inaccuracies shallow articles lacking anyalysis and reeking with false objectivity or strangling in pure subjectivity. Bah. Took me 20 years to purge my brain of Associated Press style.

Yet I kept at it. Why? It was compulsive and necessary and I had to do something to express myself that made me believe that I was not a loser. I'd made too many mistakes. I became grandiose and unreal. I was going to save the world while writing the world's best literature. I lived in confusion. Darkness. All the authorities contradicted each other. I became my own authority. I became an auto-didact. I still could not get a diploma from any university or any job that depended on a university education. No diploma I had not been socialized. All those formally educated people recognize each other speak the same lingo trade the same jargon and can recognize an outsider in a minute. But I read three hundred fifty thousand and forty eight and a half books. Disprove it.

But I wrote is no exaggeration at least a couple of million words. Nothing ever went anywhere. Nothing ever seemed to end. There was always something else to say. I worked on five things at a time. I still do. I stubbornly refuse to reach a conclusion. There is always more evidence out there and I could be wrong. I keep my options open until a gun is in my face All I can do is decide on a temporary resolution so I won't be paralyzed and kept from acting. I didn't want to publish because I did not want to add something mediocre to all the crap on the library shelves. I still don't. I don't want my name on it. All I have is my name and guess what it is not even mine.

Have you looked in the library recently? Five full shelves for Danielle Steele, three for that hack Robert Ludlum, and two for that pretentious Tom Clancy with diarrhea of the keyboard. And I thought this blog was bad.

Finally I learned to isolate myself from distractions. I had written in bars and bowling alleys for decades. Music was always blaring. Some dummy was always watching a football game and hooting and hollering. I was not concentrating and did not know it. Now I live in utter silence except for the refrigerator and heater. No music and certainly no television. Peace at last peace at last peace at last thank god almighty peace at last. It is addictive.

I know that I could have published and truthfully I could have used the money and still could but what the hell I am 72 years old now and used to being unknown. I wonder if I am afraid of failure or of success. I don't know. At least I learned to devise my own punctuation and to rid the page of cluttering commas. I don't care what the grammarians think. I even dump most quotation marks and other useless things like the semicolon and hyphen. Occasionally I let a comma in but not often. I want my stuff to read like a runaway train. Catch it if you can. I just write it now and let it fly. There's no time left to do it any other way. Get an editor? Don't make me laugh. No editor would touch this stuff.

Most of the time I didn't know how I felt or what to think. I griped a lot. Nobody listened and the ones who did just got pissed at me. It took me years to learn to hold it in. It almost gave me an ulcer. I still have trouble with that. Anyway I kept going. But I tossed most of it. All of the early stuff. All of the middle stuff. Now I am near the end and I still have 25 composition notebooks two unfinished novels and I forget how many plays and screenplays and 12 gigabytes of documents. I don't even know what's in there I have been without a computer for so long. If I live to a hundred and ever get another computer depending whether I can save more than fourteen cents a month maybe I will get it all together. Until then I am hiding the evidence.

One other thing and I suppose this is a gripe. Another dimwit trying to save or convert me said don't live in the past. I've heard it so much I went off on her. O for godsakes I said everybody's living in the past. This is the past. See that print blouse you're wearing? Where did you get it? In the past. But it's still on you isn't it? See that refrigerator? Hear it humming? Where is it? I snapped my fingers. In the past. But it's still here humming isn't it? Those ideas you have? Same place. The past is still here. It's in your brain when you cross the street and shows up in your dreams like a mirror in a fun house. The present is composed of the past. There is no future because it will never get here. You think you live in the present but you live in the past. What do you think memories are made of? How could you speak the English language unless you learned it in the past? Don't give me anymore of that stuff about living in the past. Anyway I like the past better. The fifties the sixties they are right here in my head. The past is never gone. It is your constant companion and you can't live without it. The only way you will ever lose it is to get a lobotomy. My head is full of Herodotus and Lee Harvey Oswald today. Yesterday it was full of Brian Haig who wrote those fine popular novels in the past. The past is here and all I have to do is breathe. I can't get away from it and neither can you.