Friday, November 11, 2011


With no apologies to either writers or housewives…

This morning, I got up extra early to turn out some bread dough into parchment-lined baguette cradles. It was ready for baking, because it had completed a second overnight fermentation and rise, as is customary for a true Parisian baguette. I washed dishes, burned paper garbage, emptied the drainer, took the wet garbage out to the kerb, started a load of washing and made espresso—all before 07:00. I was privileged, compelled, and pleased to do all this because I am a writer—a neurotic writer and a seasoned bachelor.

I am privelged to do housework because I work at home in erratic fits and starts. I am not one of those writers that has the discipline to keep regular hours. I am at the end of year three in a ten year project to learn to write and to earn a good living from writing. Having no TV and no interesting substance addictions to keep me busy, I have to fill my time when I am not writing doing something. And if that something is mindless and productive and saves money, so much the better…

Housework is, by and large, mindless and repetitive; that is why housewives hate it. That is why writers love it.  It frees the “better parts” of the mind to develop character and hatch out plots. It is not as good as lying on the sofa dreaming up plot details, but that has its drawbacks as well, if you consider napping a drawback.

Housework also sets the stage for writing, because I find it difficult to work in a messy environment. And since I work in the house and can’t afford a housekeeper (see paragraph below) making my living quarters neat is a part of the writing process. Fortunately I am a both a guy and a mature guy (read: “can’t see very well anymore”) so I don’t need to do much cleaning because I have a real hard time seeing dirt. Dirt is so small.

I am compelled to do all this housework because, if you are unaware of it, let me remind you that writers are poor, by and large. Doing my own work saves money. Doing my own cooking saves even more money. Killing my own wild game saves me yet more money and allows me more opportunities to meditate on plot and character. I spent over 40 hours, motionless, staring at empty woods and fields before the first deer decided to walk in front of my bow.

Since I am proud of being my own housekeeper, I have never been interested in finding a woman to be my housemistress. I have always been looking for my ideal woman who is #1. : looking for a wife for herself and who is #2.: interested in supporting me in the style to which I would like to become accustomed.

I have certainly found my #1 recently, and as for #2—well—I may have to settle for settling for supporting my own self in the style to which I have become accustomed—poverty with occasional starbursts of extravagance. She’s a gem who likes my cooking and some other things about me that I do well. Who needs her meddling in my kitchen or buying me a new Ferrari every year?

When I start writing a blog, I never know where it will end up.  Part of the fun…

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Photo by me
The following was written originally as a letter to KLP (seen above).

You inadvertently gave me the topic for my next blog when you told me you were having trouble writing yours.

Art is the product of leisure. Humans did not make a lot of art until there were enough surpluses in the food supply system to allow for frivolity. Even writing a factual information-based blog such as yours requires what I most often call "staring-at-the-ceiling-time", because I do a lot of my writing in nap position on the sofa.. Other times, I write while I am walking or running, when my knees permit. 

Of course, writing is a job, but it is not always a job that is carried out with pen in hand or fingers on keys. That is the mechanical part of writing or rewriting. But writing is only a small part of writing, oddly enough. Art is the product of leisure, albeit a focused and disciplined leisure, sometimes. Typing is not writing; it is just typing.

No one knows where creativity comes from, but when it comes, the trick is to quiet the "noise machine" that is running constantly in the human brain so that the creative thoughts can fight their way onto the page. Only Zen Masters can quiet the "noise machine" totally, but the writer has to be able to quiet it down enough on enough occasions to let the creativity flow. It is a trick. And if lying on the sofa or running or peeling potatoes or taking a bath works, don't be afraid to leave the keyboard and pick up a veggie peeler or a bottle of bubble bath.

Once upon a time, I wrote a lot of poetry and some of it was excellent and some just maudlin school-boyish rambling, but during the one or two year "poetry period" I never wrote one verse unless I had at least one alcoholic drink in me and usually one and a half or two. After three drinks, the creativity stopped, replaced by the meaningless muttering of an alcohol buzz. Not one poem sober... I needed the alcohol to shut down the "noise machine" in my brain, but not to replace the noise with the inevitable  incompetence is inebriation. Now, writing prose, which requires more time than one or two hundred word poems, alcohol is not my drug of choice. since a good prose writing session consists of writing 500 to 1500 words in an hour or three--at least 300 words past the point of inebriation were I to be drinking.  An 88,000 word novel would require drinking about 500 liters of beer at a cost of about $3000 in money, buying larger pant sizes and getting a liver transplant. I know I have to suffer for art, but buying larger pants is a price I am not willing to pay.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


In this here writin’ thang, I never experienced the early-onset hubris I did my first few years in photography many decades ago.  I never imagined any of my writing was good or great or (horrors!) perfect. I never needed to be ‘taken down a peg or two’ in order to get back to honing my craft instead of patting myself on the back. Oh, some of my poetry was first class, but great poems are sometimes a gift that falls into the hands of a modestly aware human who has the good sense to write them down before they go back to where they came from. Prose ain’t like that. Prose is a marriage—a way of life –and sometimes just a fu_kin’ chore like scrubbin’ the floor.

No, I never suffered hubris (in case you are to lazy to look it up, hubris is a Greek word for the ‘sin of pride’ {the kind that goeth before the fall, eh?}).  But I was starting to suffer from the sin of complacency. I thought my writin’ was pretty good and was slowly getting better and wasn’t that just peachy. Well… Welllll, yesterday someone finally had the guts to not be diplomatic about criticizing my ‘best’ book—Surfing Vietnam. It was not as though he wasn’t trying his best to be diplomatic; it is just that he was born without the ‘diplomacy gene’. And to make it worse, my critic was intelligent and picked out some things to criticize that I secretly suspected were weak (“the heartbreak of psoriasis”), but was just too lazy to fix. I was chastened, but not wounded or angry. I was not motivated by the chastening to change anything about anything—my writing style or plans.  I just filed it, under ‘chastening’ and was gearing up to forget it, as I am wont to do with chastenings.

Then (ta da!) out of the blue, another person sends me an e mail praising the hell out of my tear-ass funny blogs and asking me why the hell I don’t write novels that are tear-ass funny, off the wall, and obsessed with sex.  Golly, I couldn’t answer the question of ‘why not’, so I let go and started writing a new novel that was tear-ass funny, off the wall, and obsessed with sex. No plot yet, no plan, just free-form writing… That felt good to me.

I betcha it’ll feel good to the reader too.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I am in an airport. It doesn’t matter which airport. They are all the same. If the goal of all malls, strip malls, subdivisions, and fast food joints is to look and feel the same the world over, that goal has been achieved in the airport. These glorified bus terminals are the unconscious, yet intentional, archetypal crowning achievement of Western civilization.  One size fits all…

It is impossible to discern any one particular offensive feature of an airport, because there are none. Airports are completely inoffensive in detail.  It is the totality of the airport experience that is offensive. Endless empty spaces, brightly lit—efficiency encapsulated in a flavorless, colorless, odorless cocoon. There are no random acts of whimsy, no evidence of the messy hand of man or the benevolent hand of god in the design. Some great airport-making machine in an airport-making factory spit this and every other airport out of its neutral-colored plastic airport-spitting maw.

But it is the people processing policies that really make the airport the embodiment of modern Western civilization’s descent into a ubiquitous insidious mind-numbing colorless evil.  Saints and sinners, millionaires and paupers are submitted to the same unsmilingly democratic humiliation at security. We are forced to appear barefoot and stripped of all adornment when entering the technological judgment temple of "security". We pass through the arches to be measured by the wizard’s wand.  We are thus separated into worthy sheep or unworthy goats. Woe be to the goats.

None of these processes or procedures is carried out with obvious malice, but with quiet determined efficiency and not particularly well veiled threats. When we are enmeshed in these processes and procedures, we dare not speak, fearing we may utter the wrong words. We dare not make a sudden move or an exuberant gesture. We shuffle along, sheep-like and exhibit no emotion, taking our cues for our emotionless behavior from the emotionless uniformed acolytes who are our examiners and judges. Examiners and examined, we are all part of ‘the system’ and, as such, we may no longer allow ourselves to have personality, particularity or peculiarity.

I am in an airport. The loudspeaker intones, “We are now boarding rows 13 through 21. We are the Borg. Resistance is futile.”