Friday, February 26, 2010


I've been revising Kodoku, the play. Out of sheer perversity, I am posting an entire scene on this blog. As my mom says, "If you don't like it, there are seven other ways to look."


(A wooded area, a large stream, a place of soft light and soft shadows where one dreams, be dreams large or small. In the back corner of the stage the workers continue to build the boat.
A spotlight falls on Kenichi, who is holding a model sailboat. )

The world needs sailors. Sailors have been around since the earliest days of civilization. Before sailing, everyone was bored and stayed at home all day eating radishes, or, if people went onto the water, they had to row, row, row-- like the song says, and who wants to row?It's really no fun at all. I think the Pharaohs invented slavery just so they wouldn't have to pick up an oar themselves. And if you weren't rowing you were just-- adrift. Luckily, sailing was invented and everything was okay for a while.

(Kenichi's spotlight goes dark. Another light reveals Susumu slinking with exaggerated disrepute through the forest.)

Susumu, the master thief, moves through the forest as silent as a mouse... no, even more silent, as silent as three mice, seeking his next target. Ah-ha! I knew that I walked out to the forest today for a reason. What a beautiful sailboat! That kid doesn't look rich, but-- look at that boat. If I can just get my hands on it-- Poof! Susumu, Master Thief, a ghost, a breeze, a falling leaf. His parents will buy him another one, right?

(Susumu's spotlight goes out. Kenichi's resumes. This back and forth continues until they are together. )

Sinbad was the perhaps the greatest sailor ever. He sailed the seas seven different times and found seven different fortunes.

Something is strange about this guy. Who is he talking to? You may ask: who am I talking to? But I have an excellent answer. I am talking to myself, my favorite audience, but he's talking to imaginary people, and that's just weird. If I get closer I'll be able to make out what he's saying...

Sinbad also fought sea monsters. Nowadays, however, sea monsters have gone extinct. Some may say that this makes the oceans safer for adventurers, but I'm not so sure. What if the sea monsters were keeping something really terrible away? What if not having sea monsters is worse than having sea monsters?

Almost there! Jeesh, this guy sure can talk. I bet he won't even notice his little boat is gone for an hour or more. I was kinda hoping for a challenge...

The absence of sea monsters is but one of the many mysteries that I, Kenichi, the greatest sailor since Sinbad, will investigate on my first voyage. Here, hold this.

(Kenichi picks up the sailboat and hands it to Susumu who has finally crept behind him. The rest of the stage fills with light.)
I need to find a place to put my boat into the water.

Sinbad was a terrible sailor!

What do you mean?

He wrecked every single time he sailed. He only had adventures because he never got to where he was going. He was just a salesman with weird luck. And after he got rich, he just gave up.

I will never give up.

Now Alladin is a better hero. He lives by his wits, like me, Susumu, Master Thief. What's your name?

Kenichi, World's Greatest Sailor. I'm a shipwright too, although not as great as Mr Ouchi. I built that boat myself. This will be her first time in the water. Here, this will be perfect.

(Susumu brings the boat to the water's edge and together they set it free. The boat sails happily and slowly but-- rocks await it.)

Kenichi! You're a genius! Look at her go... oh, oh no. She's stuck on the rocks... she's taking on water, quick, quick.

….No. No... I worked so hard...
(Kenichi faints but Susumu half catches him.)

We can save the boat, come on!
(Susumu tries to rouse Kenichi and save the boat at the same time, but they become tangled up and both fall over.)
Get off me! What's happened to you?
(Susumu tries to pick Kenichi up, pinches him, does whatever he can think of to rouse his new friend. Nothing works.)
At least tell me where you live so I can get your family!

...Ihave no family...

No family? Who is this kid?

He mentioned Mr Ouchi. I'll go get Mr. Ouchi-- although... He won't be happy to see me.

(Susumu runs off stage, and continues to run back and forth until he reaches Mr Ouchi and the workers.)

Mr. Ouchi! Mr. Ouchi!

What? Oh, it's you! I told you never to come back here. What's your scheme this time?

There's this kid-- he won't get up. He mentioned your name... I didn't know who else to--

This isn't a trick?

On my grandmother's grave.

Okay, where is he?

Follow me if you can keep up!
(Susumu, Mr. Ouchi, and the workers all retrace Susumu's path-- some better than others.)
Here he is. We were sailing that boat over there, but it started to sink, and then he just collapsed.

Oh, it's Kenichi Horie.

You know him!

We should get his mother.

His mother? But he said “...I have no family...” Well, you go find her and I'll stay with the kid until you get back.

I don't know where they live. Kenichi just visits the shipyard sometimes. They must live close to the harbor.

That's no help. What are you going to do, run through the streets screaming her name?

No, I'm not. You are. Now, you little thief! Her name is Mrs. Horie. Run!
(Exit Susumu. His voice is heard shouting periodically. Mr. Ouchi sits next to Kenichi)
Well, Kenichi. What has happened to you? You're breathing. Your heart is beating, one two three four. Did something scare you? Was it Susumu?

(The workers, who have finally arrived, attempt to rouse Kenichi, who is a limp noodle. This proceeds until Kenichi is quite compromised and Mr. Ouchi steps in.)
Who told you to come! What am I paying you mongrels for? Let him go! No! Not like that! Gently! Back to work! Back to work!

(The workers scatter and vanish. Susumu enters walking backwards.)

Mrs. Hooooooooorieeeeeeee! Mrs. Hooooooooooooorie! Mrs. Hooooooo-- whoa!
(Susumu, stumbles and falls over the prone figure of Kenichi.)
Oh. It's you. Hey, hold on Mr. Ouchi-- I've been calling all over. I must have gotten a little lost. Are you sure you don't want to go?
(Mr. Ouchi growls threateningly)
Eeeeek! Mrs. Hoooorieeeeeeee!
(Exit Susumu yet again.)

What am I, an old bachelor, ready to retire and think only fine and noble thoughts, doing here? I guess that is the way of the world. A man is finally ready to go, and he is called back. And others... are gone before they've even tasted life, let alone had their fill. A widow, a bachelor, soldiers-- all ground up in the mill of life in their own way. What about you, Kenichi, what is so heavy on your shoulders? Why won't you get up?
(Susumu enters leading Mrs. Horie and Hiroko.)

He's right over here, Mrs. Horie.
(Mrs. Horie rushes to her son.)
Kenichi, Kenichi. What happened? Can you talk?

He hasn't been talking, Mrs. Horie, but his--

Mr. Ouchi! Where you here? Did you see what happened?

No, the boy, Susumu, brought me here, apparently--

You, Susumu, is it? Did you see what-- did you do anything to Kenichi?

Do anything to him? I've run across Nishinomiya three of four time trying to help him. I'm Kenichi's best friend.

Okay Susumu, it is Susumu, right? Please tell me everything.

Well, after I decided not to steal his sailboat, Kenichi and I made friends and I helped him put his boat in the water. It sailed like a dream... until it didn't. It got snagged over there and began to take on water. Then Kenichi just... went all noodle-y. I remembered he mentioned Mr. Ouchi and we've... had dealings... so I fetched him, and then he told me to run through the streets shouting your name, which was actually really fun, and now here we are.

He just collapsed?

Went all noodle-y.

His breathing sounds good, and his heart rate is normal. I don't know what else to do... I'm a shipwright, not a doctor.

I know what's wrong with him!

You do?

Hi! I'm Hiroko. I'm Kenichi's sister.

A pleasure, Miss Hiroko.

He's just lazy!


But Kenichi is always working, Hiroko. Something must be wrong with him.

And he never stops asking me questions.

He told me he built that boat all by himself...

I think I know my big brother pretty well. Watch this.

(Hiroko sits heavily on Kenichi's chest and squeezes his nose.)
Hey! You lazy bum! Get up!

Mmmmrmhmm... off me...

Make me!

KENICHI so tired...

No. I like it here. If you're not going to get up, you'll be my chair.


Okay, Kenichi. I didn't want to have to do this.
(Hiroko licks her finger, slowly and thoroughly sticks it in Kenichi's ear. Kenichi lurches to his feet.)

Gah! Oh, ick, gross. That's my ear! Oh... Wait, what happened? Why is everyone here?

You had some trouble, Kenichi, after your boat sank.

My boat!

So I ran and got everyone to help. I didn't think to lick my finger and put it in your ear though. That's genius!

Are you okay Kenichi? Do you remember anything?

No-- it's like I was another person. Someone... lazy. It was terrible. And there's my boat, sinking, lost. What did I do wrong? Ahem-- I am very sorry to have bothered everyone. Please forgive me. I will work even harder from now on.

Don't be too hard on yourself, Kenichi. You have your whole life to fill with regrets. I'm glad you're feeling better. Mrs. Horie--

Mr Ouchi. I can't thank you enough for leaving your shipyard to help my son. He must be a nuisance.

Yes, well. I am a very busy man.

Hey Kenichi, Hiroko, they're flying kites over there. Let's go watch!

I love kites!

Kites are a little like boats. Maybe I could learn something...

(The children depart, excitedly, the stage.)
Well, I can assure you that Kenichi will not bother you any more. I've given him too much freedom. It's hard raising two children without--

Mrs Horie! I'm afraid you misunderstand. Please don't keep Kenichi away. A day isn't complete without his visit. I've never known a boy with such a keen interest in sailing. He is welcome any time. And if you would ever like to come along, to, um, keep him out of trouble, you, um, you can.

You are too kind, Mr. Ouchi. But I think one Horie is more than enough. I should go join the children. I'm still worried about Kenichi's fit. Goodbye, Mr. Ouchi.

May good luck haunt your days, Mrs. Horie.

That would be nice.

There she goes. Quiet down, old heart. The world doesn't need any more adventures from you. Those are rough seas and you're hardly shipshape. Leave it to the young, like Kenichi. There's something about that boy. Something otherworldly. How far do you think he'll go?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

a sake primer

(I have an interview at an Izakaya-- I am training)

Sake is an alcoholic beverage made from milled and processed rice that is then fermented with Koji-kin, a strange (gross?) mold. Sake is categorized mostly by how polished the rice is (because sake from more highly polished is more expensive to make, and because the flavors of the interior of the rice grain are considered more delicate and desirable) and if water or alcohol is added.

The patterning of these qualities are still non-intuitive to me. X is X if under y and if z is added. Xx is Xx is under y and z is added or---

But let's try to get some handle on it anyway. The easiest distinction is between Nigori and other sakes, because Nigori looks different. It's cloudy, 'unfiltered' (which means coarsely filtered) to allow rice solids to float around in it. I've always liked this kind of sake-- finding it smooth and sweet and easy. Sake often includes some more sour flavors that I do not love but might have to learn to appreciate.

The other obviously different sake is called Koshu, which is aged, tastes a little like sherry, and is an amber color.

Most sake is meant to be downed cold or at room temperature. Certain Junmai sakes can benefit from being warmed, but for other sakes heating destroys the flavor.

Note: Sake evolved, like so much of Japanese culture (pre-war), aesthetically. The flavors are intended to be gentle, subtle, and refined. I've yet to read any large treatise on the matter, but this seems to distinguish it from most Western fermented beverages. Red wine can be complex-- blackberries peanut butter and pickles!-- oh! the '04 Carignan-- but usually in big, obvious ways. The flavor profile is more akin to (fine) vodka than to any other beverage I can think of.

Oh! And what is Junmai and why can it be heated? Because Junmai is made with rice polished to only 70% (or less!) of its original size and (most importantly) without any additives (which are usually mellowing agents- neutral alcohol or water) and so contains more aggressive flavors that mellow as the temperature rises.

Hold on! Junmai acquires other terms if the rice is polished more. If it drops to 60%, it is called Junmai Ginjo, and if 50%, Junmai Daigino-- but no additives are allowed in the classification.

But a sake can be Ginjo or Daiginjo if it has additives and is made from rice polished to 60% or 50% respectively. Dai- means extra?

Things begin to come together.

On our Honeymoon, I went Sake shopping the day we left for Ireland. (and apparently have just become Germanic in my Capitalization) I went into the Berkeley Bowl and was trying to move my head around the selection when a quick moving little man introduced himself to me as America's premier Sake importer and gave me a heady introduction to the subject before exclaiming 'My God, what are these doing here! These must be drank immediately!' and began to pull the bottles off the shelves and cradle them awkwardly with his fingers, elbows, armpits, etc.

These, it turns out, were 'ghost sake', a kind brewed for a special festival, intended to be drank within a couple months of said festival, and named 'ghost' because the flavor is supposed to change radically from glass to glass. Each sip, even, should be different.

Yeah, so I bought one. You would have too.

Olga and I shared it on the transatlantic flight out of an eggcup I had placed as a joke in a strange eggcup sized pocket in the strap of my recently purchased backpack. We decided the flavor did change.

On to cocktails, quickly! Naturally bartenders and owners of sushi restaurants have decided it would be useful to use sake with other mixers, often hard liquor, for the age old reason of getting people drunker faster.

First- the old stand by, the Sake Bomb-- which is a 'shot' of sake in beer.

Sake can be used in place of almost any liquor-- add a funny reference to the name, and you have a sake cocktail. My current favorite: the Duncan MacCleod-- named for the Scottish Highlander/Immortal who wields a Japanese blade. Yes, it is basically Scotch and Sake.

I think that's enough. Olga and I went to Totoro Sushi in Santa Cruz last night as a date/celebration/offering, had some amazingly over-the-top rolls, and tried Uni (sea urchin) supposedly the rough pinnacle of the 'true' sushi experience for the first time.

Maybe they'll let me wear a kimono?


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Exegesis of Cash

It doesn't seem to make sense that "Walk the Line" has become the signature song from Johnny Cash. Some song had to and why not that one, right? But there is usually a reason for these large, strange collective decisions-- or, if not a reason, as such, a rightness, a significance.

I woke up-- was wrenched from sleep-- last night to Johnny singing 'Hurt.' Yeah, that's just how things are going these days. I needed to hear it and sleep has always been 'just what keeps me alive;' has never offered protection, certainly not from wounds or their healing, and so I greeted the song as an old friend who has come to shame you but to whom you are grateful for it. So this evening has been devoted to his songs, including "Walk the Line" which I usually only half-hear.

"I find it very very easy to be true."

It is rare that we are able to speak honestly. Language is built upon this basic need, to speak near, around, through, and to truth, but not truth itself. "Walk the Line" seems like a simple devotional to love-- probably earthly but every earthly love becomes allegorical to the divine by squinting. But why did he repeat 'very?' Truth needs no ornament, no hyperbole, no emphasis. The second very is a give away-- he doesn't find it easy to be true.

"I find myself alone when each day's through"

Speaking of the distance of the lovers, and the hermit-life her absence condemns him to. It is possible for a man to do this-- but it is not likely and for some men, nearly impossible. An accusal, also, of her who has left him alone when each day's through.

The song is riddled with other impossibilities-- "I keep my eyes wide open all the time." "For you I know I'd even try to turn the tide" is very powerful and very telling. He is helpless "I know I'd even" unto death, for what happens if you fail to turn the tide?

"And happiness I've known proves that it's right" I've known-- not know.

The central metaphor becomes even stranger in this light. Walk the line. I used to be able to sprint down the iron rail of a railroad track-- but even with little feet and a child's singular focus, I never got farther than a half mile. "Because you're mine" is not the beginning of a causal statement, it is a desperate plea.

Be mine. Come back. Save me. No man can walk the line. I will betray you, not tomorrow, but maybe the day after.

They came together briefly-- they are now apart. Life is false and worthless without her, but he will falter, nonetheless, into that life in part to punish her with his debasement. Which is why the sweetness and hopeful innocence of the lyrics and the delivery is so touching. It's a fairy tale that he wants and almost believes can be true.

And like many fairy tales, it's also a threat.

Keep a close watch.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Protestant work ethic

Well, the money's run out. My life of letters and lentils a shambles of sorts, though good work was done and many lessons learned. I drove out to Mountain View with a more humble sort of resume and applied at an Irish Pub downtown there. Not that I mind working, but the writing is a wire in the blood, and every day that passes, passes and is lost without it. I will hold true. After dropping off my resume and getting the manager's name for tomorrow's call back, I headed North to Redwood City, god help me, to apply at a Mexican place there.

What I found caused me to gawp like a stunned carp. My destination was a Chili's on 'riods. A small army of red-shirted servers swarmed across a restaurant larger than many a parking garage bringing frozen margaritas to families with too much money and too little taste. It was a place of power for the Enemy.

So I walked on and found a strange cafe in an old theater that houses also an antique shop with roughly thirty beers on tap where three waitresses waiting for the dinner rush chatted and cheered me up and gave me recommendations of places to apply. (Universe, you're sending me mixed messages these days and I don't know what to make of it all.) On my way back to the car I stopped dead in my tracks outside of a closed-down auto parts store, held my head and laughed to tears.

See, when I have to write something deplorable, like a resume, I usually include some kind of harmless private joke or two-- a little bit of sugar to make the medicine go down. So in my Qualifications section, after shamefacedly referring to my 'extensive wine and beer knowledge' (vomit) and other necessary bullshit, I added 'Protestant work ethic,' and chuckled. The joke is not that I'm a lazy fuck, but that I rather loathe that phrase and the history behind it, and self-identify rather strongly with my Irish Catholic heritage. (Just a few days ago I was at a bar in Oakland calling anyone with laugh-lines a noble Celt and accusing the somber faces of Englishness...)

And didn't I just drop that resume off at a fucking Irish pub called Stephen's Green? I still can't believe it. I hope it's an ice-breaker when I call tomorrow.

Then given over to a profound sadness on the drive back. Dwight Yoakam's keeping me together though. Thanks, Dwight, and here's to you.

Maybe I'll break hearts too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

my friend of these

The angry nettle and the mild
Grew together under the blue-plum trees
I could not tell as a child
Which was my friend of these.

Always the angry nettle in the skirt of his sister
Caught my wrist that reached over the ground,
where alike I gathered-- for the one was sweet and the other wore a frosty dust--
The broken plum and the sound.

The plum trees are barren now and the black knot is upon them,
That stood so white in the spring.
I would give, to recall the sweetness and the frost of the lost blue plums,
Anything, anything.
I thrust my arm among the grey ambiguous nettles, and wait,
But they do not sting.

E. St. V. Millay

Bibliomancy brought me to that poem and I suppose it is as good as any for what I am about to post.

Last week I finally got called up-- marching orders back to Kansas. The California adventure is done, all that remains is to negotiate the treaties and then the new war begins. In July I'll be dropped in the mosquito grass jungle and for good this time.

This has long been a potential and desired assignment-- my countenance has turned towards it as sunflowers the sun for years-- but the finality remains new and fearful. So much left to do. So much to leave.

But I've a horse there and a motorcycle too. A vineyard, twenty acres and a good dog named Jethro. Over in Lawrence I've the Paden family, the Kipp's, and perhaps the best brew-pup in the world. And the work, the work that waits for me there because I don't write from memory, a functional amnesiac, but I want to know the grasslands, learn again the stars, brace against falcon winds.

Gee up, old heart. The nettles will sting again.


The last two nights were reserved for restlessness. Fitful dreams and fitful wakefulness, and last night the rain was briefly so-- that it sounded as though the sky had been ripped open and I doubted the roof would bear it.

The night is perhaps reasserting its claim on me. Daytime has always been an embarrassment to me, a foreign climate, a posture. I have come to love the sun, but perhaps I will always be a basement dweller and night-skulk.

Bleary morning metamelodrama aside, I am dealing with interesting upcoming enormous changes, and this is probably the cause of what are really very common sleepless nights.

Friday, February 5, 2010


The universe frays into nothing at its ends and hums
a song of waiting
in the splendor of stars
as she takes out the stitching of the nebula in her
hem. She's about to give up, undress, pour a bath.
Atoms within her have done so already. You, perhaps.

She removes an earring and sets it on the edge of a
worn white swirling table: a gold sun and nine lesser
stones that shimmer like a lure.


One day, a woman tells a man she's given up smoking
and turns him—like a child, like many children—out of
doors so that she may rest. The woman drinks the
relief of the traveler in a glass of cold tea.

The train to the woman's door takes the man to the
ends of the earth. The woman has harnessed herself to
her window and spun a cocoon from dark matter. She
will live for others but has died for him.

The man remembers

she took his hand so suddenly, her other hand around
the muscles near his shoulder as though a wind
pulled her away

to the ends.


Ox-eyed, the bringer of fire bears wood to the kiln.
An unknown figure sets a tea cup, draws a miniature
in gold of the yard without. Winter, and look, even
the beast that draws the cart.
An engine for intimacy.
One day, he will close the distance between his body
and his gaze. He will sweeten his breath with
marjoram and mount the steps of the china shop.
Cold porcelain, warm blood

the pristine confusion of her hand in his.

Doug's Cauliflower & and other people's poetry

A belly dried with foam
has gathered up the pieces of the house of the sea.
All that's missing is the deepest fish
of the first tenderness,
all that's missing is the glance that turned into hair
to understand the wind,
all that's missing is the form of the touch
of the first tree and the first light.

But there is a liquid sign that gathers together what is missing
like the line that draws the sea on the sea.

--Roberto Juarroz
tran. W.S. Merwin

Border Zone, Minefield, Snow East of Bebra

Only the barbed wire and glaring arc lamps
make this fresh snow distinct from any other.

All things are anguished at having
to exist in one form or another--

so many hawks glide over the mined snowy field
not even small animals, one might suspect,

cross it unharmed. Catch and
pin have been so set

the lightest creature, even, would be blown to bits.
Out of blown clouds the full moon comes,

and the birds are gliding on and on, hungry still.

--Lars Gustafsson
trans. Christopher Middleton


Damn Mexicans!

rereading a previous post it occurs to me that the above would be a fine title for a Broadway musical.

This is usually where I make a pretend phone with my right hand and dial up my pretend agent and shout with belligerent incoherence details about my brilliant and lucrative late-night idea.

Texas Tornados-- call me?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The outer life is not violent enough

"Multiply emotions. Not just one life in one isolated body; make your soul the host of several bodies. Feel it vibrate with the emotions of others as well as with your own; it will forget its own griefs when it ceases to think only of itself. The outer life is not violent enough; more poignant tremors result from inner surges of rapture. Let it feed on admiration; then it will be haughtier and its vibrations stronger. Not realities but chimeras, for the poet's imagination brings out more clearly the ideal truth hidden behind the appearance of things.

Let the soul never fall back into inactivity; it must be nurtured anew on surges of rapture."*

--Andre Gide

Gide has been my great good companion for the past two months, taking over when Soseki, who had been with me since August, grew exhausted. I read the Immoralist when one should, as a teen, in a Dover Thrift edition that cost a dollar, but at that time my mind was already ruined with the greatest works of other, more obvious, masters-- Hugo, Dostoevsky, Nabokov-- that anything less than the apex of literary ambition went read but unpondered. In a French Literature course from the beloved, generous, and brilliant Professor Ted Johnson, we read The Counterfeiters, which I was rather amazed by, but we also read Beckett.

Professor Johnson wrote to Beckett once, inviting him to a celebration of his work at the University of Kansas. He told us this story with tremendous humility, amazed still that a lowly professor had invited the great Beckett to Kansas, and produced a plastic bag in which Beckett's short but grateful refusal was handwritten on a postcard from Paris. It was one of Professor Johnson's most treasured possessions. He read it out loud to us, his voice shaken, and then gingerly returned it to the bag.

This dear moment and the fact that I was Beckett's sole advocate in the class, and, it must be said, because the aggressive nature of his genius appealed more to my college mind than Gide's elegance and restraint, caused me to write a lengthy paper on his short play, shown once on the BBC decades ago, '...but the clouds...' which interrogates and ultimately releases Yeats and his poem The Tower. I'll give you the end of the poem because I have it memorized and because it has come to mean a great deal to me.

Now shall I make my soul,
Compelling it to study
In a learned school
Till the wreck of body,
Slow decay of blood,
Testy delirium
Or dull decrepitude,
Or what worse evil come -
The death of friends, or death
Of every brilliant eye
That made a catch in the breath -
Seem but the clouds of the sky
When the horizon fades;
Or a bird's sleepy cry
Among the deepening shades.

So I did not at length study, as it deserved, Gide's singular, in both senses, novel and only came back to him when lingering over the shelves of a (new and)used book store in Santa Cruz. (At that time in college I think I was privately working through the whole of Bulgakov.) I purchased a beautiful British Standard copy of Strait Is the Gate and a charming Vintage copy of the first volume of his journals.

Strait Is the Gate is one of the most perfect and heartbreaking books I have ever read. Gide intended it to be the mirror and compliment of his much more widely read Immoralist, but while the latter has become default reading for the benighted Western Civ. canon (owing to its misreading by the fucking existentialists), the former, though numbering fewer than one hundred and fifty (perfect) pages, is rarely referenced.

But I read it, wept over it, and passed it on to Gayle. Gide's journals are with me now, but in The Fear that has overcome me as the right hand pages become thinner, I ran back to Logos to buy the rest of his work I had previously passed over. Thank you, dead reader, who owned these books before me, dating, as they all do, from the fifties, but why did you die without the second volume of his journals? Did you lend it, poor darling/cad/fool to some book-eating friend? Did some terrible accident befall it-- which would be strange considering the pristine condition of the rest of your collection-- or are you blameless? Did someone buy volume two (for a dollar) but refuse to pony-up for volume one so that I might go a-wondering?, so I guess my point is I bought a couple new books, spending nearly the price of a pack of cigarettes, (vice is dear these days: my sole line to freedom and dignity) both by Gide, who, I think, is a great writer. Well, obviously it is more than that. His style and person appeal to me for distinct and intimate reasons. He is sentimental about animals. Fuck you, that's important. (not you, clearly)

Doubtless more will follow. The passage I quoted is from his first youthful work and simply what I read when opening The White Notebook at random when beginning this post. I copied it because I collect literary references to multiplicity, which should not surprise any readers here.

...Seagram's and Hansen's Root Beer, if anyone is curious.

*rerereading this quote I am struck by how awfully it must be rendered in English. Beauty, for Gide, was nearly truth. I might attempt a new translation.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wherein I make an accounting for myself and beg your indulgence, dear readers

I am taking a break from writing to write. My better brain-bits are disconnected but many might think this makes for better reading than my more effortful work.

When I began this blog, I promised to take you through the publishing process of a grand idea to follow the harvest of wine grapes around the world. The blog would be filled with practical examples of proposal writing, fascinating research into the many corners of the earth, from Thailand to Peru to New Zealand to Madagascar and even Kansas.

Now I'm posting prose poems about the moon and shit? What the fuck? Where'd the sexy go? And you're right. An explanation is owed.

First I got distracted by Kodoku, both the children's book, (publication date: 2012!) and the play, which a couple theaters are interested in but I'll say no more for fear of the Jinx, which led to another children's book manuscript, currently under review by a publisher, about a spider silk tapestry, and a series of short stories that use many of the tropes and forms of children's literature to produce adult work naturally, rather than just dumping a bunch of sex into old fairy tales. Magical realism that consciously invokes children's literature-- something like that. I still owe an ending for a Kansas giant that is very dear to me and realization to a glass city that grows inside the Pub.

All of this happened during the harvest in Kansas. It was a productive time.

When I returned I became very, very busy but not with writing and then the holiday black hole and now prose poems?

Well-- there's yet another project you don't even know about yet. I went to the Land Institute's annual Prairie Festival when I was in Kansas and conceived the brilliant (!) idea of riding my horse from Kansas to see Wendell Berry and write a book fusing the travel narrative with my emerging agrarian ideas and a reaction to the grand old man's work. Wes Jackson, who IS the Land Institute is a neighbor (he likes to remind me that he was there when my grandpa's old house burned down) and a close friend to Wendell. I figured he could put me in touch, so after I charted the route and assured myself it was possible, I asked.

And he Wendell-blocked me. He was quite nice about it and right to do so (Mr. Berry is taking a break from his globe-trotting schedule to actually be on the farm he talks about sometimes and maybe even do some writing!) but it still ruined a very fine idea, and a saleable one as well- which was important because of various systems of mathematics.

System one: With Olga in Santa Cruz for a year as she learns to be a Science Journalist, and me part time there and in the Bay Area, I began to add up the total amount of time we have spent apart during our nigh seven years of marriage. After reaching two years my brain went wonky and I stopped counting. I still don't know. But we decided things were a little out of hand, so perhaps my plan to travel around the world for a year while she finished her program was less than ideal. 365 Crush still lives! but has been put off for a year.

System two: I've realized that the very comfortable and engaging work at the Pub was colluding with backward elements of my personality to produce little real writing. It afforded me money, esteem, a sense of purpose, community, plenty of free time, and women to flirt with. So really, why write? I needed a new algorithm.

System three: My novel still needs major work and will likely a) not sell b) sell but not make any money or c) sell for some money but not for a long time. Both 365 Crush and my overland horse adventure could very likely have been sold, thereby kick-starting my career as a working writer. But both are on hold and/or the scrap heap. None of my other ideas, even in wild champagne-filled bathtub fantasies, will pay the rent. So I've learned to accept and enjoy my writerly dissolution.

I am sorta playing with entering the William Saroyan Playwriting competition, which shells out a sweet ten grand for a play on Armenian themes, and I have a doosey of an idea about a famous Armenian writer who takes his son to a whorehouse near Fresno when he's thirteen where the son, or the father, unknowingly impregnates one of the women, who keeps the child who (the child) grows up with this secret mythology and then goes looking for her pa when she reads one of his stories about visiting the whorehouse! Also she has psychic light-bulb breaking and bat calling powers. (J-- you were there when I got that call... and it is actually a wonderful story)

But if I don't win I'll always wonder if it was because I wasn't Armenian. Maybe I should Armenianize my pen name. W. Emerionian? It's due in two weeks.

So that is what has been going on, dear readers, and why instead of telling you about the unique and delectable properties of Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noir sipped in the heady late afternoon hour of sunlight after two weeks of rain, watching steam lift from the sequoia and fir, tasting of ollalieberries and earth or reprinting my homoerotic correspondence with a Lebanese sculptor/oenophile/war profiteer who I'd have to seduce/fend off in August.

And yet the brain still boils! Other murky projects-- a TV series about the Russian experience of WWII, KRISH-2: a Bollywood Space Opera, The Dying Counties of Kansas, and the New Agrarian Manifest!

God help me I'm not making any of those up, except for the Lebanese guy, who I'm more intuiting.

But do keep reading... something interesting is bound to happen, right?