Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The End of the Road

I'm sitting in my best friend Jason File's apartment which he shares with his girlfriend Jamie. I have left Brooklyn and New York. I came home to chilly weather and a comfortable, familiar fog that surrounds me in memories and a sense of progress. I mostly associate the fog and the smell of the ocean so close to the city with my first experience living far from home at school in Santa Cruz. Interestingly, the memories are mostly of driving in to The Cruz in the late night/early morning from Sacramento. I loved driving at night, I love driving at night. I love rolling the windows down, good music on the stereo. I reach into the back seat and feel for a sweater that I've strategically placed on top of my pack. Sweater weather, the moving fog. I don't yet know what my life will be like, I don't have a clear picture of myself as a person, but I know I'm approaching it. All of this feeling is compressed once I leave The Cruz and settles into one image of the Fog and its attending sensations of cold and clarity.

I have left Brooklyn. The only home I've known outside of California. Sometimes I would hesitate to tell B I was "at home" if she wondered where I was. Could I call this my home? Was I home? After a while it was my home and I felt a part of the always bustling city (Brooklyn, not Manhattan). Who knows what the experience will settle into once I've spent time away. It could be dinners with B. Funny experiments with veggie burgers, cold salads, homemade popsicles. Late night walks to the Greenpoint pier and the privileged view of what B liked to think was the center of the world. I don't know if that's true or not, but it sure seems like it. One look at the Empire rising above earth and you must believe that your time on this planet, as a member of this civilization, has meant something. On that pier with that view you see human magnificence. When I look to my left and imagine the Towers I see the price of our magnificence - in the negative, the lacking. I feel B's hand in my mine and my experience as a human feels whole.

The picture above is in our neighborhood. B and I liked to get ice cream after dinner. Most often we would head to Van Leeuwen (towards Williamsburg). I could never decide if I liked the pistachio or strawberry. Finally, one afternoon we walked the other direction and went to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. I bought strawberry. It was my favorite as a kid and I think that it always will be.

Last night I received emails from my two peer collaborators, Katelyn and Jessica. Katelyn had ordered a copy of our new book. She said that it looks wonderful, a few possible changes might need to be made, but overall it seems like it's what we had envisioned when we first came up with the idea. I'm so excited to hold this tiny book in my hands. Katelyn said that it is a small beautiful thing made carefully. There are so many reasons to want to continue making such things or to have the outcome of your work be viewed as such.

Not too long ago B and I traveled up to Beacon, NY and went to the Dia:Beacon museum. In my limited museum experience, it is my favorite museum. I'm attracted to the work there. Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt. I've mostly been fascinated by Agnes Martin for about the past year but the LeWitt wall drawings and Serra's large iron swirls or whatever you call them really blew my mind. I've seen other Serra works before but these particular MONUMENTS were amazing. B and I walked through them a few times. I wish I had the language to describe the work. I also go to see a spider by Louise Bourgeois. I don't need to explain why a large spider appeals to me.

On the flight back to San Francisco I started and finished Patti Smith's Just Kids. The picture to the left is Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. I liked this picture the most in the book. In my book WOLF I reference a photograph that Mapplethorpe took of himself, whip hanging from his asshole. I will have to revisit this section of the book. Late last year I read Eileen Myles' Inferno. Smith factors heavily in it so reading Just Kids felt like a dive deeper into the world that created Myles and Acker and eventually the writers who I now love and feel inspired by, Gluck, Boone, Bellamy, etc. So it was somewhat surprising to realize that Patti Smith wouldn't exist mostly without Arthur Rimbaud. My love for Rimbaud always seemed a little out of step with the literary canon I felt a kinship to. Not that I actively searched for him in the New Narrative. But, it just seemed like such an obvious point at which to start. EVERYONE already loves Rimbaud so sometimes it's not even worth mentioning that he has inspired you. Rimbaud, Smith, Myles/Acker/Bellamy/Reines, me? It's curious my own lineage is so heavily female. Maybe it isn't. There are dozens of strands that lead up to me. Some female, some male. Mostly poets. But I guess it begins with Arthur Rimbaud. And really I have to confess to loving his biography more than his poetry. I sense his power in his poems but his life seems more than the writing. Of course, no poem has affected me more than "Sensation". I've borrowed so many ideas and lines from that two stanza poem that it seems like it will always exist as a pumping heart, lyrical blood. Naturally everything from A Season in Hell permeates my conception of words and writing, is the room in which I compose my various hells. Rimbaud's ability/destiny however to strike the earth and transform writing forever appeals to me. I have no great ambition to do the same in the universal sense but in my small way I can transform myself, the only true earth.

Reading of Robert Mapplethorpe's death from AIDS forces me to confront an experience of loss that a specific generation of artists felt. But when I do I can only feel the loss in reverse. They begin dead, come alive and then disappear again. The loss is biographical, not existential.

I took the picture to the left while editing WOLF. In this moment I felt entirely lost. I wanted to capture how I looked. I don't know if my face conveys the sense of fear and incompetence I was feeling. Luckily, good news awaited me a few weeks after this moment. I know this feeling will return at various points in my life, as a writer, lover, father, etc, but also I know that I do have the power to battle against my fear of worthlessness and meaninglessness. There is no goal but to feel less incapable of handling those fears. "There is strength in you, I see it." Thank you William Wallace.

So I'm back in San Francisco. I don't move back into my house until September 1st. At some point I will figure out when I'm supposed to begin school. I've been really bad this semester at knowing when things begin. I will also begin my first stint as a teacher's assistant. My head is full of questions regarding all these new things in my immediate future.

Ahead of me I have rewriting catherine, which fully re-imagined itself over 4 days while still in Brooklyn. Now all I must do is convey its own sense of itself. It's weird to have a story tell you how it is supposed to be written. I look forward to the relief. I've gathered some ideas for a new shorter work, possibly. My novella about the love of my life will soon be finished and hopefully not too long after that available in some form. I will have a birthday too - not for a few months but it's coming.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Somewhere Strange

Some amazing things have happened recently. I will run them down. First, I was offered an internship at Monday Night, a literary journal. My official title is Editorial Intern. I'm very excited about getting the chance to work with the editors. Second, I received an email from an on-line journal letting me know that one of my non-fiction essays would be published in September. Currently, two excerpts from my novel are published on-line. However, for both of these, the person responsible for them being published was directly related to me (a fellow student). I'm eternally grateful for that peer's support, but I will consider this September to be the first time I'm truly published. The specifics of all this shouldn't really matter, but to me, they do. Third, I was solicited to submit to another journal. That's about all I can say about it. I have to write something really special for it. If they accept my submission, it will be a big deal and I will be very happy. Fourth, this morning and early afternoon, I was on the phone with one of my other school peers and collaborators. We were uploading a document to Lulu. The picture to the left is what we were working on. Jessica, Katelyn and I have been working on this collection since May I think and it's finally finished. Once we all approve of the final product, Summer Idea No. 6, by us three, will be available for purchase.

I've finished the rewriting of WOLF. I'm quite relieved by this. It's amazing how much I cut out from the 2nd draft to the 3rd draft. Around 6500 words. From the first draft to the second I cut about 5500. So by draft 3 I was to 12000 words. I kept track of all of this just because this is my first novel and I want to record everything that I do at every point so that I can hopefully make the writing of the next one less difficult. Though probably from book to book the process is always different. What I've discovered is that I didn't write enough for the first draft. Perhaps that's not true though. I did edit while writing a lot of the time because I would receive workshop critiques from peers. However, overall, I didn't edit that much during the creation of the pages. I tried to just write as much as I could because I knew I would be able to rewrite everything later on. All that said, I don't think I wrote enough. I would like to maybe have another 10k words to have. As it is, WOLF has shrunk to below 100 pages. Given the story's major plot-line, this seems understandable. The good news is that in beginning the rewrite of catherine, I've discovered that there is a lot of room to expand catherine, or Part Two of the novel. My original concept for the novel was for WOLF to be the significantly longer part which preceded catherine, the shorter part. Now, it seems that they might end up being around the same length. I will just have to see about that though.

Two of my best friends in the world are getting married. Their happiness surrounds me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Adult Dazed at the Beach

On Friday, B and I took the trains and a bus to Jacob Riis Park for some beach swimming. It was a much needed rest for both of us since next to all of our energy is poured into our respective academic/artistic pursuits. I was happy to discover
that I'm not so far removed from recreation that I need to accustom myself to being at the beach. My mind quickly unwinds and I can forget my troubles quite easily. The picture to the left is of B walking past the Riis art deco bathhouse.

Aside from the pleasure of lying out on the beach and once or twice catching a good wave and body-surfing, my favorite moment of the excursion was the bus ride back to the trains. It's actually indescribable. A series of words will have to suffice for a narration or description. Youth, sand, vibrant, happy exhaustion, warm skin, cool air, infinite, expansive, light, summer memory, nostalgia.

A few days later B made Vegan Sloppy Joe's for dinner. And they were amazing! There they are to the left. There was actually a little more salad with them but I ate most of mine before I took the picture. The link above is the recipe B used. I don't think she changed or altered it in any way, except that we used Kaiser rolls instead of hamburger buns. The last few weeks I feel like my stomach and mouth have been the recipients of the best food I've had in my life. Or at least the best food for the particular moment for the longest stretch of time. B and I have had nearly every flavor of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, strawberry, cinnamon, pistachio, ginger, in pints and on cones. We've had pizza slices from South Brooklyn Pizza. Homemade veggie burgers with bleu cheese and fake bacon, chipotle veggie burgers with all the best condiments, homemade hummus, salsa, pasta salad, gazpacho. Fresh salad dressings and salads, plums and apples and bananas, berries and almonds. Moist coffee cake with red berries, crumbly coffee cake with banana. It gets me to thinking about a previous prejudice I had when I was in undergrad at UCSC. Every once in a while in a creative writing class someone would end up writing about food. Descriptions of food. I never understood them and for some reason I viewed them as a weak and unintelligible way of describing a character. How does what one eats add to the readers' understanding of a character? What does food tell us? At the time I thought NOTHING. I was adamantly opposed to including any description of food into my own writing and felt bored by writers who did. Strange that eventually the book I'm working on would have to do with a character's complicated relationship to food - at least part of the story would be about that. Even as I wrote WOLF/catherine I had reservations about describing food. It still looks a little funny to me on the page, all the names of fruits and vegetables. But I knew I would have to include food into the narrative. Until recently I wasn't aware of how to do that, but in the last few books I've read, the authors have included great descriptions of food. When I say great I don't mean after reading them I wanted to run into the kitchen and fire up some veggies. The mere mentioning of food by these writers brought the life of the characters further into focus. I can't really directly identify exactly what has been brought into focus for my writing, but I feel like food and descriptions of food can now be present in my writing. It is something people do and is worth mentioning.

Don't expect recipes in my next book or anything, but you know, soon I might be traveling to 18th century Versailles and food could play a role once I'm there, we will see.