This month's pastiche is short because I'm honoring the writer's strike. Actually, I'm not; that's a joke. The real reason it's short is because I've incorporated most of my raw journal material into Bait, a previous novella-in-progress that I've recently added as a major section to The Place, a novel-in-progress.
I don't get the writers' strike. I don't understand the leverage the writers have that causes production shutdowns. It's not like there aren't literally thousands if not millions of writers out there who could do at least nearly as good a job writing for the established characters as the current writers can. And it's not like there'd be any picket line to cross. Scab writing teams could write anywhere and send it in via e-mail. I could do it all by myself. Call me, Hollywood. I'm available.
My arms are all scratched up and scabby from consolidating the raspberry trellises from four rows spaced three feet apart into three rows spaced four feet apart so that I don't get snagged so much next summer when I harvest the berries. I accomplished this amazing feet by pulling together the flexible plastic pipes that support the guide wires at the ends of the two middle rows, thus squeezing the two rows into one super-row, from which over the next few years, as suckers grow up between them, I will cut away the old growth at the outer edges, thereby widening the rows.
Now, in bed for the night and watching tv, I can't stop picking at all the little scabs that are forming on my arms; and I can't stop drawing metaphors based upon the word 'scab', picking at it like I pick at an incorrigible society for all of the jagged little pricks that it encourages:
So, what's happening to me? Where did all my sympathy for the children of this world go? Am I getting too old to remember what it used to be like being irresponsibly young? Has my extended youth finally departed me? Wait a minute. I'll be right back. "Hey! All you goddam kids get off my lawn." Kids these days. Scabs on the body of society. [You do know, of course, that I'm being sarcastic here. I don't really believe that. At least I don't think I do.]
Early this morning, before I went out to work on the raspberry trellises, I got a phone message:
Nevertheless, if this woman can't get in touch with Jim and is trying to do it through me, then wtf? Isn't it a somewhat manipulative ploy to call someone's brother, hoping that he will pass the message on? On its surface, it seems rather innocent. But think about it: This being a "legal" matter, isn't it suggesting that a kind of social pressure be placed on Jim by his brother to return this lady's call? "Hey, Jim, this lady called and wants you to return her call. What's up? What's this legal matter you're involved in? You in some kind of trouble? You need help? Anything I can do? Don't you think you should face up to what's going on here and resolve this issue?" This lady should understand that I just don't involve myself in my brother's life in that way. [And, anyway, is she really a lady in this case? Can manipulative women appropriately be labeled as ladies? Wait! What am I thinking? I guess so; otherwise it would be a nearly empty category.]
Nothing is wrong, I try to convince myself. At least not in my life. I rationalize that the anxiety I feel is all transference from my brother. So, as usual, when anxiety threatens to overwhelm me, I turn to art. When I'm arting, I can turn off my mind and focus on the immediate creation before me. I do this a lot less these days; but I used to take art so seriously, I used to pursue it, intensely, drink huge amounts of coffee and caffeinated soda, even take uppers from time to time, spend hours in front of a canvas attending to the most minor details of form and color.
(Some) artists especially, but also anyone who succeeds creatively, perhaps, intensify their activity and tend to wear themselves out earlier in life than they might otherwise have, if they don't kill themselves outright first, with their drugs of choice: alcohol, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, caffeine, etc. I, myself, have been trying to be so good (in more recent years, although earlier on in my life...). I apportion my tame drugs of choice, coffee and beer (which are somewhat lame in comparison to my past and to other "artists"; but drugs are drugs), so very carefully so that I do not damage myself in any way, or, at the least, severely; and this careful apportionment reduces my productivity and restricts my creativity to a few hours per day, or less. But I guess I could be a little bit less careful, and a little bit more productive. I could, maybe, push just a little bit harder to get more of the crap in my head manifested in that "real" world that most people seem to think is so goddam important.
It was to that end that I developed and refined over the years the "schedule system" that I use to manipulate myself into remaining productive. Some people (like me) are fascinated (obsessed) with a very limited, specific, narrow range phenomenological focus (e.g., squares). Like squares (and, my favorite, blackened out items on schedule pages), boxes can also be a visual symbol of compensatory behavior that "alleviates" anxiety. Opening and closing boxes is behavior not unlike repetitive movements; storing "things" away in boxes (various types of containers, etc.) is a form of "organizational therapy." I do this as well as storing things away with my extended schedule/file system.
Similarly, drawing the same thing over and over again (repetitive art) can be "therapeutic," even when the art happens to be quite sophisticated so that its underlying repetitive nature is somewhat disguised. Making and decorating boxes (decoupage) is a way to incorporate all of these into one art form, as is exhaustively dispatching items on a list of tasks and duties, when the art, as well as other projects and tasks, are listed out on a blocked-out schedule form. It all serves to keep a paranoid-inducing world at bay, out beyond the doors and windows where it all belongs.
Paranoia is an extreme form of anxiety (like doubt is a mild form). I get paranoid when social tasks, duties, obligations, etc. (interfacing) does not correspond with both my mood/mode of being and my plans and/or expectations (that conditions and situations will not change--for the worse, of course). These demands to interface might result in mere anxiety except that they escalate beyond it when the anticipated interaction involves (what I think will be) particularly "toxic" situations. (Usually, all turns out to be okay, even when anticipated events are of a somewhat dire nature: "Right now, everything is always fine.") It's not so much the situation that causes the problem as it is the anticipation, which was created and "set in" early on in my life as a result of my unconscious self-perception of my genetically impaired ability to interface socially and effectively deal with change.
Change is a funny thing. It's necessary, of course. It's often even essential, to success in life, to the proper functioning of both machinery and society. But when it isn't essential, when it causes regression, people hate it; yet they deal with it. But for me, any little household item that stops working, any minor appliance, causes anxiety (if not worse), such as when I have even the mere thought about having to replace a washing machine or a refrigerator, any items that I have developed the expectation that I cannot live without; yet, of course, I can, just look at me, a mere fragment of my former culturally-bound self.
Now, although I've severely decreased my dependence on, at least electric and petroleum-driven possessions, I still worry just as much about the future, what will become of me when more things break and I have to incur major expense to replace them, what will happen to me in general, independent of possessions, are there terrible ordeals, trials, even demons, out there in the dark awaiting my arrival on the scene? Because itís not about the possessions, which are merely convenient objects upon which to project the anxiety or paranoia. It's about me. If I cannot learn to live with my own self, anxiety and all, then it doesn't matter if I own nothing or a whole houseful of possessions. In the end, it's always about the self.
But (getting back to the original subject), way back when, before I began to take it so seriously, I used to have fun with art, and with life. It was a lot easier, back then, to block out the world and live in my head, because the world hadn't yet managed to seep in and affect (infect) me.
Back then, I did art just for the fun of it, like kids do, playing with color, shapes, spontaneous renderings, etc. I kept the good stuff and threw out the stuff I didn't like; or I painted over it.
Back then, I also did music for the fun of it. Unlike now, when I "practice"; I always hated to practice when I was young, I always wanted to just play. I played simple melodies that I developed, performance by performance, while having fun, until my performance got increasingly complex; and, then, I'd jazz it up (like the song played on jazz sax in Young Indiana Jones or like Forest Whitaker in Bird when Bird was young and playing simple ditties, learning how to improvise).
Art and music was like a trance state, back then (still is, on those rare occasions when I manage to loosen the mental sphincter and "let go"). Finding the trance state is what's important, in anything you do. The best performance occurs in The Zone:
Trance is connection with "god" (Universe; whatever).
I already have eternal life. (I am already saved.) [Like Jesus.]
Now is eternal, going on forever. [No past or future.]
Now, I am an eternal being, ongoing, aware of life.
Not in this state, I'm still eternal, though I don't know it.
Not to realize Now is to exist as a finite being who will die.
Writing is also art.
This has always been my problem with performing: I perform fairly well alone; but audiences, even very small ones, rattle me. As soon as I become aware that I have an audience (of people I do not know very well), whether while performing musically (apart from a large group that affords me a high level of anonymity) or simply being attended to, I get self-conscious, embarrassed, and my well rehearsed "act" begins to fall apart. So I've always concluded that I will never be a performer, despite my desire.
[This is also true generally, beyond musical performance; in fact, it is probably the most fundamental characteristic of my "social" life. So it's hard to escape the logical conclusion that I will never be a social person.]
But I realize now, I don't have to engage the audience. In fact, if I can learn to tune people out altogether (and that shouldn't be so hard, I do it every day), I just might be able to perform in front of an audience, even solo. And this feat would be one step beyond where I need to be to be a musician: I need focus. I am congenitally unfocused, which is why I've always had problems performing music, even alone. My mind wanders (even more so when distracted by someone watching me). But if I could only force myself to focus so well that I tune out everything except the instrument, I can succeed. (Think idiot-savant.)
[Thus, learning how to perform in front of an audience in this way could end up being the first step in a generalized step-program adapting me to socialability. It's a stretch.]
This, as I've indicated, reveals a problem far more general than musical performance. In high school, I was, skill-wise, a fairly good baseball player, but I kept taking my eyes off the ball. Lack of focus. I gravitated toward activities where focus didn't matter, where, if I lost my focus, I could pick it up again with no negative performance consequences other than lost time; activities like writing or art.
And yet, I can focus, when I choose one thing only and disregard all else. My success, when it occurs, occurs because I am able to focus my activity and mental energy and put the rest of my life on hold. That's the way I work best, one thing at a time, I am not a multi-tasker. In fact, my greatest success at focusing occurs during meditation, when (eventually) I zero in exactly on the One Thing and tune out all else. So, it occurs to me that I could, maybe, do this same thing with music, make it a kind of meditation. (Again, think idiot-savant.)
Writing is also performance.
Except that the reader doesn't watch you doing it.
When I write, I focus only on writing.
Although...often, my writing itself lacks focus.
The trick, if it is one, is to make what you are doing the entirity of your world for as long as you can sustain it, disregarding all distractions. [Ideas are my most predominant distractions. I can disregard the physical world rather well most of the time, but it's all but impossible for me to disregard ideas.] Make everything you do serve a single idea. Uniformity of thought and action. It's a kind of vision/goal I've had for as far back as I can remember:
I used to want to make all days of the week the same, to eliminate the affective discrepancy between the weekdays and the weekends, because I recognized (and felt) the deleterious effects of the psycho-physiological shifts characterized by school/working days and days off. I tried to even out the affect after I "retired" by making the weekends the same as my now personally productive weekdays (since I "retired" and could devote all of my time to my own pet projects); but the tactic didn't work. I just couldn't manage to disregard the affect of the "off" attitude of weekends that had been inculcated in me over long years of societal indoctrination. (I even tried to create a new calendar, based on the cycles of the moon, that had no weekends, but only four approximately week-long phases. But I couldn't counteract the importance to society of the weekend break. Television alone, not to mention all of the more subtle cues, affected my inability to realign my way of thinking.)
But now I think I might achieve this goal by going at it the other way round: Make the weekdays like Saturday and Sunday, where all of my time is characterized by a "vacation" attitude that I should have adopted when I first "retired"; i.e., instead of "retiring," I should have just retired. I'm motivated to do this now by being cooped up in my warm bedroom for several weeks so that I'm beginning to lose track of the distinction between weekdays and weekends (and even between night and day, since all of the windows are blocked off with insulation against the cold). I've been mistaking every day for Saturday or Sunday, since I'm no longer "tuned in" to the comings and goings of the neighborhood--at least part of the time, most often during those times when I'm awakening out of sleep and uncertain, not only if it's night or day, but if it's still last weekend or has gotten to be the next one already (and also because I'm reading instead of watching tv, which I'm fed up with). This adaptation, though, is still imperfect, because I own stocks and feel like I have to watch the market action.
In order to make all days feel like vacation days, I'm going to create a year-long list of holidays that I can celebrate each day, and thereby make every day a day off. I'm still going to work each day, doing the same things I always do, but I'm going to adopt the attitude that I'm working because I want to and not because I "have" to--because that's the attitude I always slip into, when my superego gains the upper hand and defeats my vacationing id. I'm "working" (writing, arting, etc.) because it's who I am, it's what I do, every day, day-in, day-out. Performance.
There are two types of performers: entertainers, who have it in mind to please an audience; and those actors who merely do the job they're hired to do, for their own particular reasons, independent of an audience, actors who might rationalize their purpose as being one of entertainment, but who are really too closed off to do it in the most literal "giving" or revealing sense. Among this latter group are most likely to be found the method actors, since the method affords them the distance and sense of control they desire and obviates the need to open their real selves up to criticism, praise, an audience, ...whatever. With the method, they can become someone else, dealing with the role and the interactions and revelations it demands via a persona that is not who they really are, thereby keeping those real selves locked away and free from what they might perceive as a kind of harm or personal invasion.
This is what my "scripts" attempt is all about: being someone else. And this is what I do in fantasy. In fact, I've done this so often throughout my life that I've conditioned myself into being a different person, with a past that didn't really happen, or one that happened but with different internal reactions that belied the outward behavior I exhibited. When I was a businessman, for example, I was playing a role, and I was often anxious about it: I was not really a businessman inside; in fact, I hated business and businessmen (and, especially business women, because they are so much more false in their emulation of the typical businessman); and I still do.
On the other hand, neither am I an outlaw, though I have (anti-) cultivated myself to look the part. Confrontation, which is the epitome of outlaw behavior, is not at all my thing. Nevertheless, I do know how to act like an outlaw. It comes naturally to me, because I hate authority and find myself continually defying it, though mostly only in my mind. In the world, I act out only when I'm certain I will not get caught. I'm a passive-aggressive outlaw, a surreptitious rebel, looking and acting the part, but careful never to step across the line when anyone is watching. In fantasy, however, in the best manner of creative visualization (and, in the past, in training and practice at various self-defense disciplines), I have learned how to "behave" in the best outlaw manner, just in case I ever have to. As a result, I look every bit the outlaw now. It's a script I learned. It's the method. Psychologically, it's compensation, against that part of me that is the opposite, that fearful, anxious, introverted, book worm, nerdish, Don Knotts kind of character that I lock up deep inside and never let out. The only hint of that guy that the world ever gets to see is that part of him that wants the world to go away and leave him alone. It's all a vast schizoid orientation to life that I absolutely love (in case anyone might get the idea that I have been complaining here.)
So, anyway, now, I realize, I can use this same method to become anything I want to be. So, what do I really want to be? I might want to become an actor; but I already am. Ditto, performer. I could become a professional musician, by acting the part; but skill is also important, and I'm not that good, because I can't maintain my focus. And I suspect that a musician is the only kind of (overt) performer that I could be. What other possibility is there? I'll have to think about that. I know there must be something else I might manage, if I would try hard enough. But maybe I should concentrate on being just myself instead--whatever that is.
Meanwhile, I continue to perform, within my mind, especially in dreams:
640: Eileen, Rita, db, and I are in the bedroom (but I am also in the dining room, observing the four of us getting ready to, perhaps, go somewhere); but we've just returned from somewhere (an extended camping trip? a symbol for having been apart for so long?) and we're "dirty" (a symbol for having been corrupted by society? or simply nasty?) and the water has been shut off (maybe, having been away for a while, we had it shut off before we left), but it's raining, so we decide to go outside in the rain to get clean, all of us except Rita, who wishes to stay inside (and remain dirty, which maybe is her real unconscious psychology). I'm (also) out in the dining room so that I can look between us in the bedroom and outside to the street to see if anyone will see us heading out the door and out back. Everyone except Rita is enthusiastic about doing this. I say something like, well then, let's get undressed, and I remove my clothes. Eileen and db also undress, except that they have long T-shirts covering themselves. I'm watching out the front window as a pickup truckload of young guys, hockey players, pulls up across the street. I'm worried that they'll see us and become interested in the girls, so I wait. At first, I think they're going into one or the other of the duplexes across the street; but they don't, but rather disperse into the neighborhood. We all go outside, except for Rita, who remains in the bedroom. Up in the back woods, I'm encouraging Eileen and db to take off their T-shirts so that we can get "clean" in the rain. They're tentatively making moves in that direction. I myself am completely naked and engaged in an intense physio-psychological struggle so as not to reveal how attracted I am to the idea of Eileen getting completely naked. Eileen is down on the patio (which is not where it actually is, but up in the woods beyond the property line), and db is up on the rise in the woods about twenty feet beyond her. I stand in the middle between them. I hear some commotion in the woods to the north and decide that it is some neighbor boys making a ruckus in their backyards. [These are the same psychic elements as the earlier hockey players.] I hope they will not discover us here, but one of them does (Kenny, as a pre-teen). He comes up to us and talks to db, to whom he is attracted (as he and the other neighborhood pre-teens were in real life). But db gently discourages him. This upsets him a little bit, and so, from a distance, so that it is no real threat, he makes a quick dismissive backhand gesture toward her as he turns away. I immediately rush up to a point between the two of them, and, although Kenny has already started to leave, I angrily chastise him for his gesture, scolding him by telling him that you don't treat ladies that way; and, furthermore, I point out in my best lecturing mode, if you would ever do that to a woman in a workplace, they'd have you fired so fast you wouldn't know what hit you. He leaves, looking appropriately corrected. I return my attention to Eileen, intend upon disrobing her and washing her off in the rain by rubbing her down with my hands; but I'm interrupted in my intent by the arrival of the cops, who intend to charge us (Eileen in particular) with public nudity. (It's somewhat obvious to me that the neighborhood boys went and reported us to the police.) But Eileen thwarts their charges by lifting her long T-shirt to reveal that she is actually wearing a bikini. (It doesn't seem to bother the cops that I am completely nude.) I think back to when we were inside the house and realize that I knew that Eileen was wearing a bathing suit, but that I had been choosing to ignore it, imagining that she was nude beneath the shirt. Cut to:
Inside of the large shed (but at the same time, not the actual shed, but a second one just behind it, beyond the property line, in the woods. This "secondary" theme that kind of duplicates my property, but beyond it in the woods, is interesting--almost as if the dream is saying that I do not "own" what I am experiencing): I enter the shed, escorting Megan Mullally; but I am not myself, but Julia Louis Dreyfus. Megan is wearing only a bra and panties. Her skin is white (i.e., untanned) and her ample flesh spills enticingly out of her restricting but delicate garments. I (as Julia) am attracted to her and as soon as we are inside the shed, I turn her against the door, remove her bra, and gently press my lips against her left nipple. Even as I watch this as myself from immediately behind Julia's head, her long black hair predominating my vision, I feel Megan's hardsoft nipple in my mouth. Julia begins to fingerfuck and then to fistfuck Megan, who is enjoying it immensely. Other people are in the shed, farther back, and only one of them, Ted Dansen, comes forward to watch the show. Julia becomes aware of him and, making some snide comment (something about showing him something, or teaching him a lesson, or giving it to him, or putting it to him or something along those lines), she separates out from me, turns to him, turns him around against the wall, and fucks him with a huge dildo, while I remain with Megan, continuing to do to her what I (as Julia) had been doing earlier. Cut to:
Six months later: an upscale country cottage, the home and office of a country physician. An older man, very sophisticated looking, enters the home, making some comment about looking for the doctor, or calling out to him to see if he's home. Following the man in a perfectly slavish fashion is Ted, who is now buff, beefed up to unusually "lumpy" proportions, as if some mad-scientist physical trainer has been working his warped sense of reformative magic on him, or as if he's wearing poorly designed prosthetic muscles. And his personality has changed also: instead of his usual, self-confident demeanor, he is now pandering to his older lover, the man who is looking for the doctor (perhaps to fix Ted, who looks more like a Hollywood hybrid version of Frankenstein than the buff sex slave he is supposed to be).
This could be the makings of an hilarious script for a farcical romp along the lines of Myra Breckenridge, a Mel Brooks type film, with Dansen playing himself, Mel playing the country doctor, Sean Connery as the older lover, Jake Steinfeld or Andrew Clay Silverstein (Andrew Dice Clay) as the sociopathic trainer, Megan and Julia as themselves, and new talented but unknown actors as myself, Eileen, Rita, and db.
In fact, my whole life could be such a script, or a long series of such scripts: Every dream I have, alone, could be an independent film; let alone all of the fantasies and daydreams. But my favorite choice, which might require a whole lot more adaptation than I would ever be willing to do (my art is accidental, coming as it does nearly full-blown and requiring little revision; or else I don't bother with it) would have to be the diatribe I engage in regarding corporations, politicians, and the government (I'm an anarchist by nature.):
But what is it, exactly, that these highly self-assured people are in charge of here? When you have so many people in prison, the majority of whom are minorities (in reality, they're almost all minorities, in that they are so different from the mainstream power brokers), the society is not working. The "authority" is spread so thinly across the nation that huge gaps exist where "crime" may flourish. In fact, most crime is not derived from violations of natural law, but is merely a convenient matter of definition: The people in charge decide that all those citizens who differ in their opinion of what is acceptable behavior are not a legitimate functional segment of the society at large and, so, must be separated out from it.
But the people who are caught doing what they do "illegally" are the smallest portion of the people who are doing it. Thus, we have within our nature, two societies [and not two "cultures," as some sociologists maintain (most sociologists, those who do not base their ramblings on rigorous psychological and physical experimentation, but instead use anecdotal "evidence" to support their beliefs, are not scientists; and, therefore, their opinions are just that, with no real scientific legitimacy )1], one of which is "in charge" and acts to repress and attempts to change or imprison the other. The social stress created in this process is counterproductive at best.
A society doesn't work to the degree that it feels it must imprison portions of its population. And, in order to function "properly" (i.e., without imprisoning all but the very smallest portion of its citizenry), it must socialize people within the smallest segments of its populations; which means that it must socialize at the family and neighborhood level, which is exactly what our society no longer does. We have given over our authority and control to Washington politicians and bureaucrats (who are controlled by corporate entities) so that even our local police officers who should know best how to effect local standards of behavior have no choice but to adhere to nationally established codes and mores that do not work.
Crime is, by definition, deviation from community standards. It is minimized by person-to-person interaction on a continuing basis. But a big part of the problem is, of course, the fact that most people, who are significantly different from the Washington entities, think, due to the influence of the mass media (the reporters of which exhibit the same mono-identity as the politicians), that they are made of the same material as the people who purport to govern them (and the people who report on that government to them), when they are not that at all. And the local communities use this standard to judge their own, and so miss the mark, seeing criminals where there would be none.
Or else, in trying to emulate the "national standard" (where there is no such thing, except perhaps in portions of Washington, New York, and LA), they lose sight altogether of who they really are and divorce themselves from what would otherwise be their own local standard, alienate the less brainwashed among them, allow communication to break down, and become little oases of a rarefied cultural standard that sets itself up as an elitist minority amidst a huge population of ordinary people with whom they have no real empathy or rapport. They've broken the only bond that would prevent criminals from developing. Crime prospers where genuine local interaction does not prevail.
[This kind of stuff is every bit as much a performance as is the more obvious performance material outlined above. Itís just better disguised, perhaps to keep me out of trouble; or maybe, probably, just to keep me from recognizing myself among the criticism.]