Monday, October 28, 2013

We Hella Believe

That's me and Chris Conley, singer/guitarist of Saves the Day. B and I saw Saves the Day not too long ago and it was an amazing experience. One that actually began well before the day of the actual show. At least over a year ago, I learned Saves the Day would be recording/releasing a new album. They've been one of my favorite bands since I was 18 years old. Their music has been a part of my life since then. I've lost track how many times I've seen them perform. I've also lost track how many times I've met Chris; this was the first time I thought to take a picture of our meeting. I'd guess the first time we met, we were probably 19 or 20 years old, and here we are in that picture at 31 and maybe 32? He's married and has a child. He still rocks on stage just as hard as he did way back when.

Some time after 2004 I stopped really paying attention to what Saves the Day was doing. I didn't stop listening to their music but I just didn't follow along as closely as before. Yet, when their next few albums came out I bought them and quickly fell in love with them. When I started grad school in 2010 they released their second most recent album. At some point, I made the discovery that this band was my favorite band. Their 2010 album Daybreak hit me hard (in the feels) and made more sense to me as a 28-29 year old than their earlier records had to my 18-19-20 year old self. Anyway, news of their newest record came and I started a long email chain with a few of my friends about our favorite Saves the Day songs. We rated and ranked our favorites, discovering along the way which songs we each felt closest to. Each email progressively proved to me how deeply I felt about this band. (In a way also reminding me how close I felt to my friends.)

I'm not unaware of what a lot of people think about the career of Saves the Day and more correctly of Chris Conley who basically is Saves the Day. I'm not going to defend them to music snobs; ok, but actually I might. Imagine this: inside Slim's, the night I saw them with B, every single person in the audience smiling, raging hard, and singing every lyric that poured out over us for 90 minutes and 30 songs. No band could not be respected for engendering so much love and enjoyment. I guess that's an argument in favor of superstar popstars. I don't know, maybe in the indie-rock world that I feel gave birth to me and this band, so much love seems an important antidote to the bland coolness of mid/early 2000s "indie rock", or emo, or whatever it is this music is called. Ok, actually, I guess emo involved quite a bit of emoting, heroification of the singers/lyricists, etc... but definitely there was a hipness to being into the music but not overly attached. Maybe that came just after emo re-exploded in the early 2000s. The point is I love this band. I am proud to nerd out so hard about what they've made.

I guess the realization is that this is the only life I will ever live and I think 'Oh my god, I've found something that I love, something that makes me feel understood, and look at all these other people who are probably feeling the same thing, goddamn this is the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my life..." Something like that. And then I realize that this thought is exactly what Saves the Day's new album is essentially about. Being so happy to have ever lived in the first place and just standing in awe at this simple and yet profound fact. I wore the We Hella Believe shirt because I thought Chris would like it. That he would understand it.

Here's a video from Saves the Day s/t new album.

It's important to believe. Like in August while I was helping out my friend at his print shop and I got an email from Publication Studio letting me know that they were going to be publishing my book. I have never felt so much excitement surge through my body. I didn't know whether I wanted to pass out, laugh, or cry, or I don't know...explode?

So more information will be coming up about that later on. The initial details are that it will be coming out some time early 2014. Also, it's being published as part of their Fellow Travelers Series. Kevin Killian's book Spreadeagle, which everyone should read, is also part of that series. Publication Studio also published Dodie Bellamy's the buddhist too so it's just crazy to me to be a part of something they are also a part of. (I know I gush about Dodie and Kevin a lot. I love them.)

Finally, a few weeks ago now, I think, two of my closest friends got married. I was the best man for the groom. It was second time being a best man of sorts - the first was also this summer when my cousin got married. I was her 'man of honor'. At my cousin's wedding, I didn't prepare a speech because I thought it would be better to speak from the heart. I think I did fine but I was overcome with emotion in the moment, I couldn't project my voice or make it through thoughts without crying. Also, when I try to explain things off the cuff, I resort to the most meandering proof of the rightness and clarity of my thought. As if I were giving voice to the philosophical argument going through my head. Then I speak too quickly and everyone gets lost, including me. I think it's because I feel what I say is a conclusion and I need to lead everyone to that conclusion. Anyway, I didn't want to speak without notes at my best friend's wedding so I wrote out everything I wanted to say a few days before and crafted it as if it were a reading. I printed out the notes and felt safe in knowing if I just stuck to the script, I would perfectly express what I wanted to say. In the moment, I was very nervous, but I stuck to my notes and only when I actually looked at the bride and groom did I feel overwhelmed by the emotion. So I stopped and caught myself so that I didn't burst into tears. The negative of reading from notes is that I felt in a type of daze, like I wasn't quite there, and now I don't remember what people looked like as I looked out over the reception. As soon as I was finished, I came out of the daze to find that people really liked my speech. So when I didn't read from notes, I felt more included in the moment but overcome by it. When I read from notes, I felt excluded from the moment but never overcome by the emotions. I think it would be nice to merge those two.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Party in the USA

That's Ted Rees' Arthur Rimbaud tattoo. Oh and I think maybe Sarah Wintz's face emerging from Ted's back, I just noticed this. We were at Woolsey Heights for a reading by Alli Warren, David Brazil, David Buuck, Elaine Barry Kahn, and Melissa Mack. I was in a state of absolute exhaustion because I had been running around all day beforehand trying to accumulate housewares for my new room in my new house in Oakland. So I skipped lunch and right when I got to the reading I drank three or four cups of water. Finally, I awoke from the stupor in time to hear Brazil's reading which blew me away. All the readers were magnificent. Elaine and Alli had this casual delivery - even though Elaine said she was very nervous - which I really appreciated it. Melissa was reading from a book she had just published and somewhere in there she was talking about a memorization class. These were inside jokes and I wasn't inside but I didn't mind. Finally, Buuck read and for his last of three pieces he was joined by a soundtrack made by Tom Comitta. David's final line was "stand up" and at the moment we were all supposed to stand up... and we all did and then the music turned on and the lights went out and it turned into what Woolsey Heights almost always (or always) turns into which is a dance party - which I really appreciate because I love dancing and don't get to do it as much as I used to.

Off to another reading of sorts, Poem Talks organized by Sophia Dahlin: At the n/a space, Lindsey Boldt and Dodie Bellamy talked about one of their poems for an hour each and instructed us, the audience, in the poem's creation. This actually took place on the very day I moved and I was typically exhausted. I don't know why I was doing this to myself, but I feel like since I'm off work right now I really want to get in as much poetry as I possibly can. Lindsey had us write for a bit and when we were done we got to share. To my surprise I volunteered to read first. I don't know why I did that. I had written something about Kevin Killian being a basketball player. I think we were supposed to write something a little more internal/visceral, I don't know, I'm a novelist, I couldn't help but want to make a story out of the way Kevin had stretched his hand and I imagined him as a young hot shot basketball player, in the big game, peering to the side at his domineering father. I'm sure I'm recycling a movie here.

Dodie's talk was very interesting to me because in all my time of working with her I have never thought to ask about the process of her book Cunt-Ups. Dodie has a new book coming out from Les Figues Press. It's called Cunt Norton and she utilizes the same technique for it as she used for Cunt-Ups. That book was extremely important to me, or is rather, because it was the first book I read by Dodie prior to starting at CCA. I followed Cunt-Ups in a way for my book. In it, among other things, Dodie smashes these hyper-sexual flourishes into one another, separated by commas, identities shifting, bodies shifting. It's beautiful. If you've read my book, you will see when I'm following Dodie's lead. During her talk I wanted her to talk about someone on some site calling Cunt-Ups "experimental fiction" or something like that, but I guess that's not what we were there for. (Note: blogger says I'm misspelling cunt.) Below is what Google books says are common terms and phrases of Dodie's Cunt-Ups.

And well before all this there was the talk of the town: The East Bay Poetry Summit. I feel like it will be one of those weekends where time separates itself. Or like the question will be asked, Where were you during the Summit? I was only able to go to the reading at Woolsey Heights. It'd be difficult to explain what the scene was like. Past readings at Woolsey have been well attended, crowding the two living rooms with people... when I showed up for the Summit event, the people spilled out of the house, down the stairs, out into the courtyard. It was madness. I remember sitting near Brandon Brown on the steps, listening to the readers over the speakers. The audiences' applause was picked up by the microphone inside and then sent out to us on the outside. I think Brandon was smiling the entire time. True to form the reading ended in a dance party. I kept thinking I do not want this moment to end, I do not want this moment to end. But, eventually, we had to say goodbye, or I did really, and I walked home, thrilled and intoxicated.

It's a little bit difficult to say how I feel after all these readings, as a novelist. Part of me wants to go home and start writing poetry which I can then read for everyone. But that's just not what I do. Maybe I should do it? It would be totally nonsensical for me to even begin however because I'm working on another novel and I really just don't have time to work on other projects. Or actually, I'm working on the new novel, and several other novel-like projects and really just don't have time to do anything else. I suppose the energy which these readings create in me then gets funneled into my writing in other ways. Is it true prose/fiction writers sometimes don't read poetry? If you are reading this now and you write fiction/prose, you should go to a book store and pick up a poetry book, any one, and just start reading. I don't know what you should do if you're poet... I'd say read a novel I guess. Honestly, I might be content to just live with Rimbaud for all time. Like maybe Ted has the right idea.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Avert Your Eyes or Don't

My best friend sent me a link to the movie where Werner Herzog eats his boot. After I had finished with that I clicked on one of the videos YouTube suggests and above was the video that came at me. In it, Herzog says that 'the poet must not avert his eyes'. I don't consider myself a poet so I just imagined he said 'writer'. But, what does that matter? So what he means is the poet should live a raw and real life, not sequestered in the library, viewing life from outside. This idea struck me because I couldn't help but think of my book, The Wolves. (Which, by the way, still needs a publisher, so if you publish books and are reading this, feel free to contact me) In my book I tried really hard to not 'avert my eyes'. Originally, the narrator of the first part, which almost everyone has read by now I'm sure, was named Jason. I wanted to intentionally confuse the narrator and myself, the author. Or rather the reader would put us together and think we were the same. Originally, this had much more to do with the book. I guess when I was first conceptualizing the story I wanted to comment on how people DO avert their eyes by splitting their identity into multiple identities. I know I did it. I lived out a different life through my writing. Things which I couldn't say in my real life, things I couldn't do in my real life, I could do as a character. Eventually, I saw this as a problem. We invest, or I invest, so much time in a fantasy world that we/I neglect the real world. Is it common or not that people who live with writers/songwriters/etc fear they will be plugged into their artist friend's/lover's stories/work? Are real life friends/events/transactions/emotions only fodder for the story? This is what I wanted to comment on.

Of course, the story changed and it had less and less to do with me. I took my name out of The Wolves and left it blank. Readers could choose to confuse us if they liked but it wouldn't be overt. Naturally, my own experience is built into the story but I don't see it as having happened to me. Indeed, I borrowed the names of my family, real life events, but I see them as entirely separate. This isn't to say it's not still complicated and problematic to do so. At some point, I will have to explain to those included in my book why they are there. Or not. Maybe they will just be happy they appeared. Or indifferent.

I try also to force the reader to not avert their eyes by not providing any release in the first part. Bodily fluids are pervasive. As Janey Smith once said, I went "comma-tose." He was referring to the unending commas, or unending sentences. The sentences were meant to propel the reader ever forward, and there wouldn't be any stopping. You have to look/feel what the narrator is. Violence, sex, vomit, their redundancies. There's a lot of reasons I wanted to do this but I will save that for some other post, far far in the future. So imagine my surprise then that people would eventually avert their eyes. They raced so quickly over the language, pausing only to pick up the few plot points. Well, that wasn't something I had accounted for. What would it mean if people literally skimmed the top? I reflected on that for a while then realized it wasn't a terrible outcome. It reinforced the disassociation felt by the narrator. Suddenly, the reader was closer to the narrator than before. It made sense to have him unnamed.

Now, I don't think this was everyone's reaction, nor will it be later. But, it feels important. When Herzog makes his claim, I feel really sure that this is true. It probably takes courage to do it. And no one could ever do it all the time. Some things we cannot see/hear/feel. We block those things out out of self-preservation. But, everything else, I think, we should welcome with open arms. Even the sad/scary/hard things, like death, fear, loss.

Finally, a week or so ago, I was on my way home from work and while looking out over the city from the train, I realized, quite surprisingly, that I was unafraid of the future. Did that include my death? I don't know. I can barely conceive of my life ending. I would say that I am unafraid of death, though I am angered and disappointed that I will eventually not breathe. But, it's only disappointing because I won't be able to live more. Death would be the final aversion of the eyes.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

This is the Only Place

I realized recently my work computer had a floppy disk drive and so all these old floppy disks I've been holding on to could finally be gone through. There are about 10 of these disks. Most were full of college essays and drafts of stories  from when I was about 16 until probably 21. I found the picture to the left on the disk as well. It's me, obviously, dismayed that I and my two college friends could not get a fire started somewhere in the wilds of Alabama.

We had taken this road trip during the summer between freshmen and sophomore year of college. One friend and I flew to New Hampshire, where the other friend picked us up and drove us back into his hometown of Boston. From there we drove a southern route across the country. It had rained most of the day/night when this picture was taken, and we were just not having any luck getting a fire going.

Just a week ago I received an email from an agent letting me know they were passing on my book. I'm not entirely surprised. I've prepared myself for the numerous passes (or rejections as the realist might call them) I will surely receive. Nevertheless, it's still disappointing to receive a no. Oh, but I don't want to complain. Of course, I'm likely living closer to my dream than a lot of people get the chance to. There's a vast system of support beneath me which launched me toward being so privileged to even appeal to agents and people who publish books, writers and other makers and thinkers.

To the right there is a picture I took while at Janey Smith's 851: The Squat reading series. Brandon Brown was reading and just before he began he accidentally knocked over a martini glass full of cough syrup. You can't exactly tell from this but his hand appeared bloody. That is what I was hoping to capture actually. The martini glass full of cough syrup was there because the previous reader Cassandra Troyan was sipping from it while she read. I had hoped to also take a picture of her reading as well because she had hand-cuffed herself to this chair, but I thought a flash might disturb the environment, I'm sure no one would have minded, but seeing as I had spilled my drink just moments before, I didn't want to disrupt the proceedings any further. Beside her a laptop played a video. Cassandra seemed to be in a type of duet with the video. The images in the video were sometimes of cityscapes, the type you see while driving through a darkened town, or of a woman's legs. Shouts were heard. Meanwhile, Cassandra was reading, possessed maybe, bouncing between voices/phrases comical and corporeal. The micro-press Solar Luxuriance (run by Mike Kitchell and Cassandra) just put out Cassandra's book Throne of Blood.

Brandon Brown's reading was also wonderful. He read 3 pieces about his name, in addition to some others. After the reading was over, I spoke with him about my pleasure in hearing him offer periodic asides within his pieces, which I suspected were mostly built-in to the writing (he confirmed this). He came off as relaxed and improvisational - and that appears to be purposeful. And I love that about his reading. It's almost as if he's offering us a bit of stage banter but it's more important than that. A lot of wonderful readers do this, I think. Of the most recent readers I've seen, Dodie Bellamy, Kevin Killian, and Brandon Brown do it. I also remember, from quite a while ago, when Eileen Myles came to a class I was in (with Dodie actually) and I fell in love with the way Eileen seemed as if she were just speaking directly to you as she read. It's like at any moment the topic could change (and it often does), but as most conversations go, it will find its way back to the original concerns. Or maybe it won't, and then you wonder why not?

This is a picture at the end of the night. Janey thought to gather one representative of each of the writing communities in attendance. I'm not sure which communities they all represent, but the two people in red/burgundy might represent the new Alt Lit/internet writing scene (I'm sorry I didn't catch their names). Janey, far left, represents 851. Brandon, next, represents the East Bay scene. And Mike Kitchell, in the beanie, represents... I'm not sure, because I forgot how Janey organized it all. But, Mike would probably fall into the SF scene (if you go by regions). Really, I would classify him as 'writers I'm envious of for their output'. There are a lot of writers in that classification actually.

Finally, I wanted to add a picture taken by Kevin Killian as part of his "Eyes on the Prize" photography exhibition at [2nd floor projects]. Kevin came to my house a few days ago and we had a fun time, he taking my picture and me trying to be the best model I could be. There's a lot more to say about Kevin's photography project, but I will just encourage everyone to check out his exhibition. And if you're not in the Bay Area to do that, you might want to ask yourself why you don't live in the Bay Area... Why would you live anywhere else? 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

666 666 666

Saw this address in the Richmond district of San Francisco and took a picture of it. I think I was returning to my friends Jason and Jamie's apartment after drinks in the Inner Sunset. At some point we stopped near the DeYoung Museum and took pictures on our phones. It was late and there were hardly any people around. (I may be mixing two different nights)

I only partially intentionally included 9 chapters in the second part of my novel. When I realized I could squeeze everything into 9 chapters, I figured it made sense in terms of the demonic, etc. Also there are 27 chapters in the first part of the novel. Sometimes I wonder if all these little parts of my book will be discovered, whether I should alert everyone to them or not. I like the idea of leaving little bits for the reader to find on their own. I guess a lot of the latest revisions have been about making those discoveries for the reader more exciting and potentially powerful.

Recently, I received an email letting me know one of my 'stories' will be published in the next/final volume of The Encyclopedia Project. One of my former teachers co-edits the book. When I found out it was accepted, I was with my family in Sacramento for Christmas. My grandma asked me about the story. I pulled up the pdf on her laptop and read a little bit to my grandma, my mom, and my great-grandmother. My grandpa was in the living room and could hear me, I think. At certain parts my grandma laughed and that made me feel good. And she understood it. And that made me feel good.

Here's a picture of me at Highland Hospital in Oakland. I wasn't feeling good then. I was on my way to work when my back and side started to hurt. I thought I just had to use the bathroom but after I unsuccessfully used the toilet at the MacArthur BART station, I remembered that I had felt this pain before, about a month earlier, though a much less intense version. I hurried home and called my dad who told me to not be stupid and go to the hospital. I would be stupid to not go because I don't have health insurance. The insurance I did have had expired about a month prior to this, actually.

I woke my roommate and asked her if she could help me get to the hospital. Luckily, there was a hospital right down the street so we walked there - a walk that should have taken 5 minutes but apparently took 30. This was a children's hospital however so they weren't really set up to help adults. But, regardless, they gave me some drugs and called an ambulance. My dad had called my mom and soon she was there too. The pain ended up being a kidney stone. I was taken to Highland eventually. I'm actually hamming it up in this picture because I was texting with my dad, and he had sent me a picture of himself in the hospital when he had a kidney stone. By this point I had been on drugs and in between and at hospitals since 8am and it was probably 4pm, and still I hadn't eaten anything. While I lie there, a man was brought in who had been shot in the back of the head. I like that behind me in the picture, the hospital seems empty and peaceful, I guess, but actually behind my mom there was an entire drama playing out.

I stopped writing this blog post so I could meet with two friends for coffee. While I waited for my friends to arrive I went into a bookstore and bought a magazine - Boston Review (BR). When I shop for groceries, I stare at the magazines the store places there so you might buy them last minute. In the past, I've never been tempted to buy the magazines, but recently, I've felt this urge to buy them all: the New Yorker, the Economist, Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, etc. For a while when I was living with B, the New Yorker was always around and I liked looking through it. I don't know why I never picked it up on my own. I resist the urge to buy the magazines in the store because I know if I just go online and subscribe I can get a better value. I haven't subscribed to anything yet. I will likely subscribe to Boston Review however. I started following the Boston Review on twitter because twitter told me I might interested in them based off of other accounts I follow. I don't follow many 'news' magazines, mostly literary journals so I thought at first the Boston Review was a literary magazine. After a while I noticed the BR's tweets were mostly about politics and while on my long work commutes I was actually reading the articles their tweets linked to. Basically, they grew on me. Then tonight when I saw their actual print version, I had to get it. I look forward to subscribing.