February 28, 2005

The Library

My take from the library this weekend:

A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates

Aldous Huxley Recollected

The Scientist, a Novel Autobiography by John Lilly


Jimi Hendrix: Blues
Sonic Youth: Murray Street
The Pixies: Doolittle
Thelonious Monk: Live at the Five Spot w/ John Coltrane
Air: 10,000 HZ Legend

And for my wife, who’s going through a PKD phase:
Philip K. Dick: Eye in the Sky, The Man Who Japed, Clans of the Alphane Moon.

Libraries are some of the best places on earth. Sometimes I think they’re too good to be true and they’ll outlaw them. All that stuff for free. I haven’t been wanting to read fiction so I’m setting out to read some auto/biographies.

The reason I got the Pixies CD was because one of my sacrifices when moving to Wilmington, NC was losing all of my LP records. The couple who were subletting our apartment drove down from NYC with all our stuff one weekend--an angel-like move which restored my faith in humankind. I told the guy to keep the records as payment. I don’t know how much he got for them. There were some very good records in there. I used to be an LP snob. Now I really don’t care. LPs are a pain and less portable.

My wife rules for going through a Philip K. Dick phase.

February 25, 2005


I watched the Peter Jennings special about UFOs last night. Not so bad--sober, not as condescending as it could have been. It was good to see witness reports from rational people--police officers, pilots, real people--instead of trailer trash and new-agers clouded by wishful thinking. This is the one thing I tell people who don’t take UFOs seriously. There are a lot more credible witnesses than you’ve ever heard of. And the word "cover-up" sounds conspiratorial, as if the govt.’s hiding dead alien bodies in Roswell. Actually the cover-up is visible--the govt. reports such as Project Blue Book and the Condon Report were designed to sweep the entire subject under the rug: by the admission of people who worked on them.

The scientists, of course, discount every witness, no matter how credible. This devalues the perception of millions and millions of people--a sort of delusion in itself. The SETI people were smug as usual--after all, if UFOs are real, they’re out of a job. They’re too busy trying to get TV signals from another planet, which may be more unlikely than UFOs.

The people at Posthuman Blues didn’t seem to like the show, didn’t go far enough. The show wasn’t for people who know anything about the subject, it was for people who think it’s a joke. Michio Kaku’s final sentiment was good: it's too important to scoff at and not treat seriously. I read his book, Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century, as research for my future-novel, which was an interesting read. I recommend Posthuman Blues if you have any interest in weird science whatsoever.

The most pathetic thing about the show were the commercials. Inventions for exercise equipment and cooking utensils that you only see on daytime TV. I guess they couldn’t sell commercial space for this show. Kind of sad and lonesome. Actually, I thought about buying the Tupperware lazy Susan. First time I ever wanted to buy something off TV. Maybe the UFO show was making me suggestible. I am the resident dishwasher in our house and this invention would change my life.

February 23, 2005

Cloverfield Press

I am stunned. I am actually getting published somewhere. It's been so long since something's been accepted and I haven't felt this way for a while. I sent my story to friends of my brother’s who have started up a literary press. They publish stories in individual volumes. Hand-numbered, nice paper, very classy. Maybe it is who you know, somewhat--our kids play together--but they had to like it. I wasn’t sure how anyone would take this story: futurist, sexual, confessional. It’s the first chapter of "The American Book of the Dead" but I worked on it a long while trying to make it a self-contained story.

Two weeks ago they gave my wife and I a car. For free: a 91 Toyota Camry. They are my new heroes. Their press is here: Cloverfield. "Gentleman Reptile" is due out in October.

February 22, 2005

The American Book

When researching my new novel about UFOs, World War III, life after death, and so on, I read a huge number of esoteric books. When I sat down to write the book, it started reading like non-fiction. I had no patience to write dialogue. I’ve taken some time away from the book, which is a good thing because now I think I can write it like a novel. I still, somehow, have the desire to write the book, even though it’s been years since I first conceived of it and I’m a far different person. Every time I read a story about George Bush it gets me energized to write the book--about a crazed fundamentalist president, among other things which I won’t talk about for fear of losing The Urge.

It also makes me fearful to read about this administration. I try to stay away from it if I can. I read about the recent Porter Goss hearings, in which he spread more fear, and where he said something so profoundly stupid as "The War in Iraq hasn’t created new terrorists, but it has been a training ground for terrorists." I’m barely paraphrasing. That night I had a vivid dream about plane crashes and going to war--buying guns to protect my family and not knowing how to use them.

After Sept. 11 I would have plane crash dreams all the time. I had seen the planes hit the towers and it shook me on an unconscious level which didn’t leave me for a long while. Read my entry in The American Book of the Dead about September 11. The blog’s been abandoned, but that chapter sums up my experience and will probably end up in the book.

Just read Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers--a Christmas gift from my dad--which reminded me of my devout paranoia after September 11. Much of that paranoia has left me and I've worried that I won’t be able to write my book with the same fervor, but I think fear is not the greatest catalyst for writing. Fear has no subtlety maybe. It led me to conjure up ideas that will go into the book, but it's not a great mindset for writing the book itself. This is my hope as I continue on.

Here’s an Amazon list where you can see the kinds of books I was reading as I geared up to write a deranged novel. Some grammar problems in that list, if I remember, but I haven’t bothered to fix them. I was living in North Carolina and living at the New Hanover Public Library as well. Made friends with the librarian who loved my daughter. Ordering far-out books from distant universities. All that insane information which will probably become mainstream before too long.

February 20, 2005

Hunter Thompson

Hunter Thompson Kills Himself

I just learned this. I didn't have it in me to write an obit for Arthur Miller, but Hunter Thompson is something else. I haven't read him for a while, I'll admit, but I went through my phase where I read everything by him: Fear and Loathing, Hell's Angels, Curse of Lono...I really loved the movie, "Where the Buffalo Roam," with Bill Murray as Hunter Thompson. For some reason, that movie gets a lot of bad reviews. Way better, to me, than Johnny Depp in the Fear and Loathing movie--which was all insane with none of the artistry. Sure, the man did a lot of drugs, but you can't be such a good writer without taking writing seriously. The poetry was gone from that movie. I have the same problem with the film version of Jesus' Son. All of the darkness with none of the lyricism.

So every young writer--especially male--will probably have his Hunter Thompson, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski phase. Which isn't to say that these guys shouldn't be read after a certain age, but it may be best in your early twenties--when you're looking for debauchery and a way to be artful about it. There aren't too many American literary legends, especially in the second half of the 20th century, and he was one of them. He was unapologetic, bold in ways I wish I could be. Suicide is a stupid, brutal, horrible thing, but shit, I knew nothing about his life. It may be unsurprising. I have a book about John Lennon which ends with the sentence, alone on a page: "What a fucking ending."

Update: Here's a good collection of Hunter Thompson links from Rox Populi.

Update 2: Hunter Thompson killed himself on Kurt Cobain's birthday.


I mentioned a couple months ago that I was invited to my 20 year elementary school reunion. It was this weekend. I didn’t go. I am chickenshit. Also I was feeling a little sick, but I think that was my body making a reason not to go. I wasn’t in the mood to be assessed. One of the reasons I thought about going was so I could ask somebody for a job, which is absolutely not a good reason to go to your class reunion. My best friend in elementary school, who I haven’t seen in twenty years, is (last I heard) a head writer on "NYPD Blue."

Rented Woody Allen’s "Anything Else" this weekend. Wasn’t so great but I always like a Woody Allen movie. There may be no more romantic movies. The city looks like it’s always lit at sunset. Even the apartments are lit a burnt yellow. I used to believe that the people in Woody Allen movies existed somewhere and I could one day be part of them, where everyone’s sharp and self-aware, as if they know what every moment signifies--like a novel--which may be the greatest lie of fiction. I didn’t understand that the characters are all written in his own voice. I own a copy of "Manhattan" and I put it on every once in a while when I need to believe there are people out there who breathe sophistication. It’s been a while so I don’t know if it will still have the same effect. The main character in "Anything Else," played by Jason Biggs, seemed panicky and uptight to me, rather than smart and romantic. Incidentally, maybe, Jason Biggs looks like a member of my family.

The only time I’ve had an experience that felt like living inside a Woody Allen movie was going to film critic Pauline Kael’s 80th birthday party. There’s a group photo , taken on the roof, of me standing there with Paul Schrader (wrote "Taxi Driver," others) NYer critic David Denby and 100 other intellectually luminescent people. One of my father’s good friends is Marshall Brickman who co-wrote "Annie Hall," "Manhattan," with Woody Allen, and even his parties overlooking Central Park West didn’t feel like a Woody Allen movie. People usually seem to be very concerned, vaguely desperate, that their current conversation isn’t interesting enough, whether they’re 60 or 30.

This post might seem like I am very well-connected. I’ve been to Woody Allen’s writing partner’s apartment and Pauline Kael’s house. It’s not always about who you know. If it was, I would be far more successful. Just going to someone’s house doesn’t solve anything. There’s something else at work. Actually, this has more to do with my father, who’s also a struggling novelist. I haven’t written about it here, but part of the reason for my deep discouragement with the publishing industry is that my dad has had hard luck as well, at exactly the same time. It compounds the frustration.

Feeling good now though. I’m listening to Duke Ellington, Small Groups. No more romantic music. No more romantic instrument than the clarinet. Rain outside, jazz inside. Great literate romance hits me ever so often and it’s a beautiful thing. Both internal and external. This may just be my way of describing a good mood. I know I'm in a bad way when I can't listen to music. Yes, I am up and down, but part of a good mood is feeling what’s possible, the future--if only it lasted.

February 17, 2005

Rejection Letter

Just got this rejection letter. I sent out a few copies of the first chapter of my novel "North of Sunset" to mix it up and see what would happen. I got this from a woman at "Night Train."

"I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first chapter of your
novel "North of Sunset". However, I didn't feel the
chapter worked as a freestanding short story enough to
consider it for Night Train. It ended very open-ended
without any kind of resolution. But it did make me
want to

I have a feeling you will enjoy much success with your
book! Thanks for thinking of us."

I don’t mind rejection letters at all if they’re thoughtful and encouraging. Most aren't though. I don’t think I’ll be posting all of my rejection letters from the last round of submissions because they’re probably not going to be as nice as this and many are form letters.

February 16, 2005


So I’m back, if anyone’s still reading. Been feeling like shit. Money. I also was feeling like this blog is a fabrication, a way to make me seem more suave and refined. Even using the words suave and refined is kind of bullshit because I’m basically a mess. Writing is a way to embellish my life rather than tell the perfect truth. But maybe there’s nothing wrong with that.

So I’ve been going through a rut where every fucking thing bothers me. Corrupted by the feeling that many people are expendably dumb. Many people could vanish and it wouldn’t matter, so long as the death is painless and there’s no one to mourn them. Being that I believe in life after death, I don’t think eradicating whole hoards of people is that big a deal. Of course, I could be wrong.

Guy in Blockbuster video, with his two small kids. Nothing bothers me like a son looking exactly like his father--you can tell that the son is probably going to end up leading an identical life. On the screen comes an ad for some new race car video game. Guy says, "Ooh, I can’t wait for that," like a small child, can’t look away from the TV. Not for the benefit of his kid, he was doing it on his own. His 10-year-old kid had the very same expression. We are a species of children and we are getting younger, not older.

Condescending, no? I hated that man as I stood in line waiting to rent "The Hulk." Sometimes I torture myself by watching the worst television imaginable. A way to punish my brain and my fate by saying to it, "Fuck you for not making my life any easier." The worse the TV, the better.

"The Hulk" wasn’t so bad as it could have been. Then again it was really, stupidly bad. A big green ape smashing things. The interesting thing was the extra features with footage of the filming, which solidified my feeling that a film set is a very depressing environment. No one looked like they were having any fun. Seems to be populated by self-important depressives.

Sounds familiar. The only difference is they’re getting paid millions of dollars and they’re still miserable. All I want is a little extra money so I can write my book and take care of my family. This is not for lack of trying. Now you’re seeing why I wasn’t blogging. Self-pity isn’t all that entertaining. At least I got it down so there's a record of it.

February 10, 2005


I really have to work today. There can be no extended blog entries. Here’s a nice site about William Burroughs that I wish I could’ve written.

February 9, 2005


I lied about my ailments. I have more! When I was in Paris, I got gout. I was drinking copious amounts of wine and eating rich food. Wine is incredibly cheap in Paris. Expensive wine here might go for six dollars over there. So I was drinking more wine than I ever had, all at once. They say gout is one of the worst pains there is--all the pains of a body concentrated in one joint--for me it’s the big toe. I’ve had it once a year or so since then. I am a young old man.

I managed to write a screenplay while I was holed up. Sometimes pain is a good catalyst. I used to think it was the only catalyst, but not anymore. That was the only time in my life that I thought of a scene in a dream. In the early morning I dreamt the first scene of the screenplay, woke up and wrote it down and didn’t stop writing until the screenplay was done. I’ve been waiting ever since for that to happen again--some great premise to magically hit me. Come to think of it, it was probably the French gout medication.

I wrote the screenplay while my roommate was at the summer home of Francois Truffeau’s daughter, Eva. Sounds like the stereotype of what you’d do in France, but it’s true. I also met a good friend at the birthday party for semi-legendary jazz musician Steve Lacy. I mention this because my life is nothing like this now. It’s like a strange, old dream, an interruption of my normal life.

You might have noticed that I don’t talk much about what’s going on in my life in the present tense. I use this blog as a kind of memoir, rather than reporting on my daily life, for the most part. I don’t like writing autobiographical fiction, and I wouldn’t have the gall to write an actual memoir. And my life is generally dull. Trips to the park. My second home at the Beverly Hills library where I wrote my last story and I bring home CD’s and books, most of which I don’t read. We watch movies. My life is uneventful.

On my wife’s birthday, we went to a Brazilian restaurant, just the two of us. Normally, we can’t afford to do this. It was the first time since we moved to L.A. that my wife and I went out to dinner alone--this is insane, a year and a half. It was a profoundly eye-opening experience. We walked past the bars in West Hollywood--the sounds of sexual tension, the smell of smoke and liquor. Such a familiar smell, I felt 25 again. For all anyone knew, my wife and I were out on our first date. I wasn’t defined as a guy with a kid. Sounds like I could be complaining about fatherhood, but that’s not true. She’s the only thing on earth that should have happened. It makes me intensely proud and comforted to walk around with her. But it also cuts into my time to be an individual. I got a small taste of the good life and I want some more.

As the Zombies’ song says, "This will be our year, took a long time to come." I say this to myself every year, and I always believe it.

February 8, 2005

Vanity Fair

Just found out that I’m in "Vanity Fair" this month. I mentioned a while back that a writer for "Vanity Fair" contacted me for an article about my high school, Crossroads. I made the cut and I’m quoted in the article. I haven’t read it yet so I don’t know if it’s completely embarrassing or not. Whenever I’ve been in the newspaper, there’s been something wrong with it--like being called Harry Brown in "Variety" when my novel was optioned. It makes me think that there’s something wrong with every article. If you want to see me embarrassed get the new issue.

February 7, 2005

Divine Comedy

The site’s still getting sorted out. Explorer is crashing--which sounds lyrical. The designer is on the case. While I'm waiting, here’s this. I haven’t done many of these, but I like this one. I’m lustful, who would’ve thought? I’m only one level away from limbo.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Moderate
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante's Inferno Test

February 4, 2005


The new design. I love doing stuff like this. Still tweaking it. I got the template from this designer. It was incredibly easy to set up.

Update: It wasn’t so easy as when I started. I’ve fixed some things. Over and over again. Please let me know if you’re having trouble loading the site.

February 3, 2005


So I finished a story and sent it out to The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, and Open City. I also submitted 30 pages of "North of Sunset" to a few small literary presses. I thought I’d start with some longshots for the story because it could potentially launch my career. It would be like winning the lottery. Sending out work makes me feel better: at least I’m trying, there’s always hope.

The NYer doesn’t allow simultaneous submissions which seems unfair. The likelihood of them publishing anything by me is remote, so I’ve got to wait around six months for a rejection letter while the story remains stagnant. Don’t tell anyone, but I submitted it to other places as well.

I haven’t written too many stories in my life. This one may be my favorite. I’ve always been more interested in writing novels. If I invent characters, I want to stay with them for a while. I become attached. I’m more interested in the scope of the novel. A good story can have the scope of the novel, but still a novel is less confined. I also think I might not be a good enough writer to write good short stories. It’s seemed strange to me that student writers are always taught to start with stories. To me, it’s harder to be that concise--I’d rather lay it all out, go in different directions. I’ve thought that I’d write stories later in life, which is backwards.

The advice I give to anyone who asks me about writing: keep going and don’t read it. You can only learn to write by writing. People have told me that they’ve stopped halfway because they were unhappy with it. If it’s not genius right away, they give up. It can make you feel like shit to read what you’ve written. I’ve read interviews with a lot of writers who say that their first drafts are horrible--unless you’re Jack Kerouac who was against revision. Spontaneous bop prosody and all. Bob Dylan also didn’t like rerecording anything. But Raymond Carver did forty revisions or more on a story. Not revising is insane to me. But I don’t revise until the thing’s basically done. If not, I’d rewrite the same page over and over again. I can be a perfectionist--which is tedious, like reading the same novel 100 times in a row, and doesn’t lead to perfection. Someone said somewhere, "Art is not finished, it’s abandoned."

I also don’t read a lot of short fiction. So I have a limited knowledge of the thousands of small lit magazines. If any of you know of good places to send the story, I’d be grateful for the help: Small magazines that I’d have a chance with and publish darker fiction--not brutally dark, just not calm.

February 2, 2005

Daily Detox


If I’m ever going to do a commercial for something, it would be for Daily Detox: For Today’s Toxic Environment. This will probably read like a commercial. It has all of the best herbs that are good for cleaning out the body.

When I lived in NYC, I used to hit a tennis ball against a wall at some handball courts. I started up a game with a Puerto Rican guy and we’d play a game of handball using tennis rackets and a tennis ball. Sometimes I’d even win. Once I played the same game against a guy using just his hand and he kicked my ass, which was fairly humiliating.

An incredibly fun game, but also incredibly unhealthy. The handball courts were beneath the Williamsburg Bridge--soot and exhaust descended on those courts. Sometimes I couldn’t take in a full breath afterwards because I could feel the pollution in my lungs. The same thing happened to me as a kid living in L.A. After a day of playing, I couldn’t take a deep breath. It’s seems to be a lot better in L.A. now. Must be the smog checks on cars.

So I went to a health food store, bought some Daily Detox, and it cleared my lungs out right away. I also have bad kidneys so it’s good for me to get some extra help with cleansing my system. My kidneys work only 2/3 what they should. Doctors don’t know how it happened. My guess is that it happened during a horrible fever when I lived in Minneapolis--shivering uncontrollably, crazy hornlike glands swelling up on the back of my head. It might be when my kidneys got scarred. A bad fever can do that. I need to stay away from meat and keep my blood pressure down.

So I always feel a little bit toxic, unhealthy. It contributes to me feeling psychologically toxic as well--about all the dumb, bad, violent stuff in the world. Daily Detox has herbs that help the liver and the kidneys--Milk Thistle, Dandelion, Burdock, etc. Some supplements like Juniper or Licorice actually make the kidneys work harder so I stay away from them. I’ve done my homework.

What else is wrong with me? I’m 3/4 deaf in my right ear. When I was seven I got a concussion after a kid dared me to make a jump on the jungle gym from one bar to another and I hit my head. I ended up lying unconscious in the sand, blood pouring out of my right ear. Must have been hideously bad for my brother to see me lying there. Really, I think it’s years of playing drums and live music which have broken down my ear drum. Again, doctors don’t know what caused it. All they can tell me is that, yes, I have hearing loss.

Everyone’s got some maladies: these are mine.

February 1, 2005

Super Size Me

Saw "Super Size Me" which I really liked--as if someone I might know made a Michael Moore documentary. If you don’t know the story: a guy eats only McDonald’s for thirty days and finds that he nearly destroys his liver, as if he had been on a heavy drinking binge. On the DVD there were extra features, including an interview with the writer of Fast Food Nation. He divulged that every McDonald’s hamburger is not comprised of one dead cow, but possibly thousands of dead cows at once--as a result of factory processing. I never eat at McDonald’s so this won’t be too difficult, but this one fact makes me never want to eat at McDonald’s again, or any fast food. I don’t eat too much meat for health reasons as much as the moral issue, but it cannot be very good for the human spirit to eat a thousand dead animals in one sitting.

UPDATE: Here's some more McDonald's amusement.



It's my wife's birthday. Happy Birthday, Samantha!!!

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