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minds his own damn business
Everyone needs rules!


THE 12 ESSENTIAL RULES TO WRITING FICTION YOU'LL WISH YOU DIDN'T



__________________



I was just a few weeks ago reading passages from a collection of Bukowski's love poems to my girlfriend while we were at the beach. I'm pretty sure she stopped listening after the word 'snatch'.



(I LOVE) JOHN CALE












In some ways John Cale was the fault line for me. Where it became clear that writing about music professionally, at least in the avenues that were being presented to me, wasn't going to work. "He's great", the editors I would be working for told me when I mentioned my interest in Cale's music. One of the first things I ever said to them. "Just never write about him. No one cares"


In some ways I obviously understood why a violist who worked in the avant-garde tradition with polarizing figures like LaMonte Young and John Cage, might be an unwelcome point of discussion for a magazine catering to pop culture. But these people were more than aware of Cale's eventual drift towards rock and roll, punk and baroque pop music. How he had written the kinds of songs which were exactly in the tradition of the music they were already covering.



Basically, with their off-the-cuff assumption that their readership would never have any interest in learning about this guy, they were shutting a door on allowing their audience to not only discover the menacing delight of his more accessible work, but were denying them the key he offers to different musical territory. Even Flaming Lips fans deserve to have their horizon's broadened.



So the dye was already immediately cast on this particular career choice for me. I have an inability to truck in establishments that under estimate the potential of people to be receptive to all kinds of art. As a demented Romantic, I consider it a moral crime what they were doing. I walked out on that job the only way I know how. Without warning and full of venom. Just like the adult I never grew up to be would do.


But at least I still had his records, presumably, just for myself. Rarely has an artist snarled his way into the heavens as Cale does on much of his 70's work. He's an undoubtedly frightening figure looming at the margins of pop culture, covered in chicken blood behind a piano. But his musical intuition always seems deft enough that he call pull this terror into some of the most majestic pop songs this side of Brian Wilson. And lyrically, he is an under praised master, who deserves nearly as much attention as a Leonard Cohen, or John Lennon, or Tom Waits, or Lou Reed. I've not only laughed at his perverse phrasing, but I'm certain I've had nightmares about them too. The only two things that matter.



As an artist, Cale is a monumental figure in my life. An inspiration. A cypher. As close to perfection as an artist and performer and thinker can be for me in the art world. He has some recognition but not nearly enough. I can only hope all of those readers of a now defunct Toronto music rag eventually found their way around that trash heap of journalism to find him as well. They deserved him as much as I do.



minds his own damn business
Speaking of Severin....


I have to admit, Cale's voice leaves me cold. Certainly colder than Lennon, Cohen or Reed. I'm sure that some, most?, of that is intentional. I've managed to penetrate the ice-stone facade of Nico, so maybe I need a polar expedition to get there.



Speaking of Severin....


I have to admit, Cale's voice leaves me cold. Certainly colder than Lennon, Cohen or Reed. I'm sure that some, most?, of that is intentional. I've managed to penetrate the ice-stone facade of Nico, so maybe I need a polar expedition to get there.

I get why some might see a coldness there, but I find a calmness to Cale's voice. As well as an always untrustworthy gentlemanliness. And because of this, any slight dip into tenderness or mania, becomes all the more powerful. Or frightening.



AT FIRST NORMA

Whoever had thought to call her Norma had clearly made a mistake. Children were hardly meant to answer to such a name as this. It sounded old and dusty and much too serious. It should have been left for only the darners of socks to nod at. Or the stirrers of gruel. Or maybe for those who were meant to eat this gruel once the stirring was done; the leftover girls of orphanages everywhere, all of them who had also been mistakenly named Norma, and who no one would ever think of adopting because of it.

All she knew was that it shouldn’t be meant for the ones who went out into the cold to dance across ice floes, as this Norma did, skipping from one to the other, unafraid of ever drowning. Whenever she heard this name called out through the kitchen window after her, letting her know that lunch was now ready, it had the sound of something that was better off slipping and sinking to the bottom of the lake. She would not let it get near her as she skated weightlessly across the ice towards a place she might be known as something different. It was a relief to hear it dropping heavily into the frozen water behind her, unable to keep up with how quickly she moved ahead of it.

But her mother had given her this name, and she would be persistent. She would keep calling it out until she came. There she would wait up in this house on the hill, looking down towards the iced-over lake below as a lunch sat waiting on a table beside her. Norma could wait all she wanted to see if she might call out for anyone more interesting, but this lunch was never going to be for a Rita or a Hazel or even a Betty. As far as her mother was concerned this bowl of soup was only for Norma, and it was the only name that would ever be called to let her know she needed to hurry before it grew cold.

While she dreamed of one day defying these calls, Norma always came to the sound of her name, eventually. She could only pretend to be someone else for so long before her mother might find a need to fetch the measuring stick from her closet, and unlike the soup, this would have only grown warmer the longer she had been forced to wait. Holding it firmly across her thighs as she watched the slow progress of her daughter crawling up the hill towards her, its heat would be felt across the back of Norma’s legs once she was inside. And with every strike of the measuring stick, her mother would say that dreaded name again, if only to help her recognize it quicker the next time she was being called. Enough whacks and she’d be screaming it herself, loud enough for her father and all her brother and sisters to hear. Loud enough to make it clear to everyone within earshot who she was and who she would remain to be.

By the time the rest of the world had also come to know her as Norma, it would call her this until it made her old. Took the colour from her hair. Drew creases around her mouth and made the veins behind her knees bulging and green. Everything about her became exactly as one should expect of a Norma. Neighbours would even yell it out as she went zooming past on the shining yellow bicycle she rode about town, and in time, this became as good a reminder to slow down as any. Once you had been a Norma long enough, it became clear the time for bicycles was over, and it was important to start keeping safe in the softness of couches. Or any place she could finally succumb to the promise of her name by letting life pass her by.

But even once she began to keep herself inside, safely away from those who might recognize her, this name would continue to find where she had hidden, making it impossible for her to think of herself as anything but what she was. Having wed herself to a man who had no issues with being married to a Norma whatsoever, he was proud to call it out loudly whenever she was on his mind. Possibly while trying to find a particular tie he suspected she may have lost in the wash. Or if contemplating the possibility of yet another pot of tea. His lungs were filled with the sound of her name, and as long as there were things to be done about the house, it would constantly be sent out in search of her. Just enough times, it seemed, to turn her into a grandmother.

It was the least she could expect after all these years of being a Norma. Once enough dust had settled upon this life of hers, there was little else for her to become. But from the first moment she laid eyes upon her grandson, she no longer worried over the bother of now being a grandmother. This child had looked back at her with such a sense of trust she felt completely at ease introducing herself. All he wanted from her was to know who this woman was that he was looking at and all she needed to do was tell him.

“Hello there. I’m your Nan”, she whispered to the boy as if telling him a secret. “Can you say Nan?”

The name had come to her without her having to think much over it. It was good. She liked the sound of it as she spoke it out loud for the first time. And while her tiny grandson could only smile back at these noises his grandmother made so close to his ear, she was encouraged by how eagerly he seemed to want to say it back to her.




I've been thinking deeply on what he says about what writing should be here. Probably have been a lot since I revisited this video about a year ago. More so now.


Even teetering on blind drunkedness, his appeal to writers is simple but perfect. Just say something. And feel it when you say it. That's it, you dummies.



In many ways, it's a straight forward appeal. And true. But also, ridiculously difficult to live up to. Those juices run dry so quickly. And sadly, a fifty gallon truck full of gut rot, hardly even helps most of the time.



THE PRIZEFIGHTER

Leaving the boy behind was always difficult. She would look back at him as she stepped from his mother’s apartment into the hallway. He would be standing in the center of the room with his hands stuffed into the pockets of his brown corduroys, almost as if he saw no reason to reach out and touch anything at all here. He looked so small. He’d stare back at her while his mother gestured for her to close the door before the weird smells of her neighbours cooking could come inside. All Norma could do was remind them of the groceries she had left for them on the kitchen counter, before stepping away to shuffle off towards the elevator. Her husband would be waiting outside for her, smoking cigarettes in the car. The windows would be rolled up while he coughed and stared in the wrong direction. He would hardly notice as she got inside.

Back at her house, things would feel different. Slow and empty. Thankfully, on days when there seemed little else to do but sit still, her home had a way of making her busy anyways. Even when Minty wasn’t with her, and she had little reason to wander up and down then up the stairs again, she somehow always found she was able to work herself into a state of exhaustion. Sometimes it would be on her knees kneading the carpet back into place after a good vacuuming. Or maybe it would be going on an excavation to the back of the closet in search of something she hadn’t seen for years, but suddenly needed to find, maybe to dust off and display on a shelf, or just to look at and remember where she had gotten it. She seemed most bedraggled of all though whenever she was to be found standing next to the woodpile in the garage, blood dripping from her nose, and soft curls of peeled paint in her hair.

In summer, when she could keep the door of the garage open, the bleeding would be much less. But when it grew cold, and there was nowhere else for the smell of Turpentine to go but up into the tender tissue of her sinuses, it wasn’t uncommon for the furniture she was stripping to be dappled with droplets of her blood as she worked herself into a sweat. She’d touch her nose, look at her fingers and curse quietly to herself. Then, retreating inside, she would spend the rest of her day seated at the kitchen table, listening to classical music on the radio, and drinking a glass of Scotch with two bullet shaped plugs of tissue stuffed into her nostrils.

When her husband returned from work to find her there, he would tell her she looked just like George Chuvalo nursing a beating in the corner of the ring. She felt dazed from some kind of defeat as she stared up at him. “Nobody told me I was marrying a prizefighter”, he would bellow and laugh and begin to look around for evidence of his coming dinner. “What an embarrassing mix-up for me. Oh, poor me, poor me. Married to George Chuvalo and I’m the last to know”



(I LOVE) FLANNERY O'CONNOR





The only person I'm convinced writes better than any other person.


I love you, Flannery.


If it wasn't for you, I would have given up on sentences by now.



minds his own damn business
Is she even wearing a bra though?



minds his own damn business
Even teetering on blind drunkedness, his appeal to writers is simple but perfect. Just say something. And feel it when you say it. That's it, you dummies.
I think it's good for a writer to get comfortable writing. Bukowski mentioned how he started by just filling up a notebook with words. Don't bother thinking about the final draft or what people will eventually read. Separate "the zone" from the editing process. Look at writing like a director sees coverage, not taking a scene in a linear sense but just a few paragraphs here and there on different angles, and worry about structuring it later. And, as Mailer said, never edit drunk. You can write drunk, but edit stoned.



GRANDPA AND GRANDMA: THE NEVER EATERS OF ANYTHING

Legs crossed like a gentleman, arm casually draped over the back of his chair, my grandfather hardly seemed a man just licked clean of chocolate icing. But I’d seen him with his fingers in his mouth. Knuckle deep and sucking. Had been peeking around the corner and watched him at the kitchen table. Knew he couldn’t be left alone with a birthday cake that wasn’t his.

“Another slice? Now why would I do that? Ridiculous.” He laughed. Fumbled with the crumbs on his sweater. Hid a fork. Shook his head.

The tinkling of a spoon would sometimes draw me towards the similar misdeeds of my grandmother. She could never leave the bottom of a bowl alone. Scraping pools of melted ice cream into her mouth, making a racket until I appeared to accuse her. She told me if someone had been eating it, or if it was all gone, it had nothing to do with her. I should take my crime solving elsewhere. Would nudge me away with her feet, as I’d still be on my belly, pointing at her from the kitchen floor.

“I’ve never tasted anything sweet in my whole life”, she would tell me, angry I seemed unable to remember all the stories she told me about her Brother Bill. How she’d stand outside the candy store and wait for him while he went in. The misspent fortune of all those coins they would pool together and that he would always waste on little paper satchels full of licorice root she couldn’t eat. And that he knew he wouldn’t have to share.

My grandfather seemed to enjoy the infamy of being thought a thief. Smoked cigarettes at the kitchen table in quiet contemplation of what sweet things he would steal next. A little smile on his lips as if he could already taste both it and his lies. But my grandmother would grow agitated once caught. Leave the room after rinsing her bowl clean. Not speak to me the rest of the day.

When left alone, I thought of prisons for the both of them. Cages they could be put where the shame of a whip cream swirl sprayed atop their head would quickly begin sagging in the dungeon heat. The cherry of their indignity about to drop to the floor. Roll underneath the absorbent piles of straw they slept upon. Something for the rats to steal before their greedy fingers had a chance to snatch it away too.



minds his own damn business
Do you have one of those secret kleptomaniacs in your family? Boy, are those fun.



Do you have one of those secret kleptomaniacs in your family? Boy, are those fun.

I don't think so, no. But, I must admit, things always had a tendency to vanish in my childhood home. Sometimes chairs you'd expect to be there would suddenly go missing. Then an entire table. So, I guess it's possible it was secretive kleptos. But, more likely, my grandmother was just impulsively throwing out rooms worth of furniture. Or selling it to highest bidder vagabonds while I was at school.



minds his own damn business
I had an aunt who was always in trouble for petty shoplifting. I had no idea until years later.



I think it's good for a writer to get comfortable writing. Bukowski mentioned how he started by just filling up a notebook with words. Don't bother thinking about the final draft or what people will eventually read. Separate "the zone" from the editing process. Look at writing like a director sees coverage, not taking a scene in a linear sense but just a few paragraphs here and there on different angles, and worry about structuring it later. And, as Mailer said, never edit drunk. You can write drunk, but edit stoned.

This is essentially what I've done for while now. I do still get hung up on certain parts, usually a particular cluster of sentences. But where I used to grow really attached to these parts I overworked and spent tonnes of time on, I usually just delete them these days. You can almost always smell the struggle on them (ie portions of The Prize fighter and At First Norma contain elements that survived this kind of purging, probably for the worse)


I'm big on the writing under the influence of alcohol speed of weed. I am always completely creatively crippled when on any kind of serious hallucinogen. I start questioning the very nature of language and the creative process when I'm in that zone, and I'm not even capable of doodling pictures on a scrap piece of paper when Im like that.


Editing almost always has to be done dead sober, for me. Editing is always about removing big chunks, and inebriation is always about adding things. Not compatible



WAR THUMB

When speaking of the war, my grandfather might mention the candy bar that had slid from his shirt pocket somewhere over Italy. Dropping out through the bomb bay doors. Spinning down towards the ground below. Exploding along with all the monuments and whatever civilians had been standing around marveling at them.

“A very dangerous Sweet Marie”, he’d say, and smoke and stare back down at his newspaper.

More often, he’d just extend his arm towards you and clench his fist. Awaken the gristly deposit of flesh that proudly lined his thumb. A bulge he’d be pleased to find you could not flatten, no matter how hard you pressed upon it. His ping-pong muscle. The only thing he’d brought back from the war with him. Something to make us all consider the unbeatable backspin that had grown it there.

It was never clear who had stood opposite him as stared across the table towards his next opponent. It was nice to think of Nazi’s being felled with a slice of his felt covered paddle. But, on reflection, it seemed more likely to have been those on his side. Allies with ping-pong ball sized dents littering the floor of the barracks. The peculiar musculature of his thumb growing ever more monstrous with every victory.

"Hitler! Wham! Ka-pow!” He would sometimes say as he flexed it for me. Give the sky a punch, then reach over the kitchen table for the butter dish. Lather a slice of bread as my grandmother's suspicions turned towards his war effort. That thumb. Convinced it was full of nothing but breakfast fats. That it would leak like a punctured sausage if she was ever allowed to pinch it.

“Maybe your grandson might like to play a game with you sometime."


Sometimes, she’d send him down to find me in the basement. I’d watch him carefully come down the stairs and move to the opposite end of the table. Glare at me over the net with eyes that were still thinking of his newspaper. Could see his ping-pong muscle begin to throb as he took a hold of his paddle. Would stand there as helpless as a German as he began to launch missiles at my head.

“Wham! Kapow!”, he’d say as he left me curled beneath the ping-pong table. Turning off the lights as if he’d already forgotten I was still down there. And once back upstairs, let my grandmother know he was still undefeated, after all these years.



I think this is the first non-pandemic piece I've posted here. Just came across it and obviously want to work on it more as it is even less finished than most. Posting it so I will remember that I want to include it with the rest of this nonsense once I start making sense of everything I've been writing (one day)



Just Don’t Let Him Die Thirsty

There was definitely a shortage of legs in these parts. Ever since I had moved into the new neighbourhood I couldn’t help but notice the preponderance of stumps to be found as I walked down the street. They were everywhere. Some were as smooth as shaved heads; others came to an end in a fleshy twist as if the missing leg had been removed through a violent unscrewing.

In my old neighbourhood, my better neighbourhood, everyone had seemed to have both their legs. In this strange new place though, it could not be counted on for my neighbours to be so lucky. Even on those occasions that they did happen to have both of their legs,
and could stand on them, and walk around quite cavalierly, further investigation would soon reveal that they were undoubtedly missing something else: possibly an arm, often teeth, maybe, in mysterious instances, even patches of skin from their face. There was even a particular coffee shop that appeared to serve only those with one eye, and I often felt quite out of place inside of it. The fact that I neither wore an eye patch, nor even had an empty socket that I kept bare for those who passed by to peer into, set me quite apart from everyone else who bought their morning coffee here. My appearance seemed so severe as to even cause the girl behind the counter to treat me with some concern whenever I came inside to order. As she poured me my coffee, it was always as if she could not bear the scrutiny of a second eye watching her, and feeling rather on the spot, could hardly help trembling from how watchful this two-eyed face of mine seemed to be.

But whatever this neighbourhood happened to be lacking in legs and eyes and other assorted missing limbs, it more than made up for with all of the dead birds that lay scattered all over its sidewalks. They were often just babies, and they could be found in clusters of three or four, their bright yellow mouths hanging open and filling with the ants that came up through the cracks in the pavement. Whenever I saw them I would walk quickly past, not wanting to stare at them for too long in case they moved. If they moved, I knew I would have no idea what I was supposed to do with them. Of course I would stop, and stare at them, and see if they were alright, but then what?

Knowing myself, I was fairly certain that I wouldn’t have it in me to just leave them lying there on the sidewalk—this seemed too heartless—but I also knew I wouldn’t have the first idea of how to make them better if I ended up taking them home with me. Once inside of my apartment, the reality was that they would just end up dying horribly in my bathroom sink, regardless of all the crumpled up paper towels I’d put inside of it in order to give it a place to rest comfortably. This hardly seemed a much better fate than just letting them stay on the sidewalk and be trampled to death, and so I determined that it was for the best not to try and rescue anything. When on the street I would always keep walking forward, not looking down, pretending everything at my feet was already dead

It would have made my life easier if I could have just stayed inside all day long, kept my eyes clean from the sight of all those stumps and dead birds, but since I had an unusual hatred of my new apartment, I found myself going outside often, even for the most menial, unnecessary of tasks. I did this to get away from the bare walls I hadn’t decorated; to escape the sound of the enormous generator outside of my window that whirred to life every day at noon and caused my whole apartment to thrum like it was being administered electro-convulsive therapy.

One particularly hot afternoon, as I lay beneath my covers, sweating, unsure of what I should do with the rest of my day, I thought to myself: “Maybe I’ll go get myself some lemonade”. It was a thought that for a brief moment made me feel excited at having something to do, and since I was thirsty, there seemed to be some point in this task I had come up with for myself. Finding my pants, and putting on my shoes, I left the apartment not feeling horrible. This pleasant mood would be short lived though since my street was unwilling to be kind to me long enough to give me even enough time to quench my thirst.

As usual there were wheelchairs everywhere for me to step around as I made my way towards the corner store. Most were easy enough to ignore, grown still at the side of the pavement, teetering on the edge of the curb as if its shrivelled occupants were completely at ease with the threat of tumbling out into the traffic. Others though were piloted by more aggressive drivers, who as they sped past, would waggle their stumps at me in frustration for being in their way. Those that were drunk would slosh foamy explosions of warm beer at me as they shook their fists and screamed “Gehhhdaaaahrd Dewwaaayyy” as they whirred past. Those that were sober could articulate their intense dislike of me with a much cleaner annunciation, and I could only pretend to not hear what they’d said, since I had already learned it was never a good idea to talk back to anyone in a wheelchair. At least not in this neighbourhood.

One man in particular though was doing something rather different. He was rolling backwards, seeming unable to control his chair and grimacing. I watched him as he struggled with his wheelchair, and continued to watch as I saw him back over a bird that had just fallen out of its nest to the sidewalk. There was a flurry of feathers, some agonized chirping, and then I could see the injured creature come out from beneath the other side of the chairs whirring wheels. It became immediately apparent that the bird couldn’t walk or fly anymore as it began to pull itself across the pavement with its wings in order to get away from this man who continued to roll backwards, looking dumbly down at the sidewalk, seeming unaware of what he’d just done. Getting closer I could see the birds legs twitch. It’s mouth was snapping open and shut. The man in the wheelchair watched it without changing the expression on his face, which was the sort of crumpled up thing that’s only function seemed to be to holding the cigarette that he was furiously smoking in place.

“Broke its back”, he said to me as I stooped down, thoughts of lemonade now far from my mind, even though I was still terribly thirsty.

I looked at the bird, gasping.

I didn’t want to live in this neighbourhood anymore. How did I get to such a place? There were just too damn many wheelchairs and I could no longer stand all the dead birds.

Everything was horrible.

I picked the bird up and carried him home, his legs dangling between my fingers.

Everyone watched me intently from their wheelchairs.

I would fix him.



(I LOVE) BLACK SABBATH





When I first began buying up all the records in my neighbourhood, using all the dimes I had fleeced from the kids on my street to amass a enormous collection of complete garbage, I had an innate suspicion of any record recorded after 1969. It was a year I believed that everything good suddenly ended. I would only put on something from the dread 70's if I didn't look closely enough at the back cover. Than scoff and say, yup, my cultural expiry date was correct. This **** sucks.


I don't think I checked the back of the Black Sabbath Greatest Hits album I bought one day on Broomhill (a street notorious for its terrible garage sales). I recognized the Hieronimous Bosch, and so was going to give it a go regardless. But I figured it was going to be bad. No matter how good a name that was for a band, it was the 60's. So who could possible care?


Except, when I put the record on, the opening strains of the song they named their band after did something weird to me. While I wasn't sure if I liked it or not, I immediately opened my window wide.I wanted the Hansford Twins next door, who were almost certainly washing their car, to recognize that Satan was near. For the first time in my life, I wanted to share music with other people, instead of hide it away from them.



And I think this was because I realized that music could have different levels of power over me. What I had been listening to up to this point, mostly the Beatles, some Beach Boys, and the Byrds, revealed something vulnerable inside of myself that I didn't want others to know about. But I desperately needed to get in touch with.


Black Sabbath, on the other hand, inflicted something upon the world that I probably felt laughed at these vulnerabilities of mine. It could inflict fear or discomfort. It made me feel bigger and unafraid to let others know that there was also a deep, boiling rage inside of me. It was a noise that could potentially dirty up that car in the Hansfords driveway. Make them have to come outside and clean the stink of Black Sabbath off of it, all over again.


This was a band that introduced myself to a whole new understanding of music. That it can repell you just enough that you lean in closer. It made me understand art as something that can be confrontational. That it can be almost stupidly simple. And through doing so, basically set alight the realization that not everything needs to be beautiful. And by being this deliberately ugly, without any sense of penance, it can be empowering enough to be a spiritual experience as the full force of it caves in your chest.


Thank you Black Sabbath, for making me see the light.







minds his own damn business
Underated rhythm section. Also liked to fix dead birds and wheelchairs.