Creative Packing

Creative Packing

Two graduations in Pennsylvania, one in New York City, and a weekend at International Mr Leather in Chicago, all in one trip. Naturally the bag got searched at every single stop.

I’m the Guy in Yoga Class

Who has bigger muscles than everybody else but who breathes through his mouth and takes little “breaks” throughout class to gulp water and “re-center” his thoughts (i.e. admire his own arms in the mirror) while everybody around him is upside down balanced on one leg for like four fucking minutes.

Trapped in the Tower of Babel

The more I’ve worked on the memoir, the less energy I’ve put into this blog. Which makes sense to me. Less clear is why I’ve kept the blog sputtering along on a quarter tank of gas for the last couple of years.

I suppose it’s a combination of motives: stubbornness, of course. Optimism that I might find within myself more energy than I’ve shown. And, worst of all, my grudging acceptance of the conventional wisdom that today all writers (or all artists, or pundits, or fourth-graders) need to maintain a “web presence,” a marketing tool, an idea that wasn’t around over six years ago, when I started this thing.

Back then different motives drove me: the need to start writing again after a long dry spell, the need to document the last couple months of my mother’s life, the desire for approval, and the yearning to connect to what used to feel like an underground community of freaks.

Around the time that people started throwing up blogs featuring nothing but photos of half-naked boys, blogging went from something I loved to do, to something I felt obligated to do. A total snob I sometimes am. Unwilling to pull the plug, however, I need a different motivation.

Over Christmas, in the long lazy hours at my father’s Palm Springs condo, I picked up a copy of Newsweek with a cover story on Amazon’s Kindle– the new digital “reading device.” I belong to the camp that can’t imagine an expensive piece of plastic holding the same allure as a bound book. But I can acknowledge that times change.

But the section of the article that most disturbed me was about the ways in which technology could, or would, change the very nature of reading and writing. The article quoted a guy who heads the Institute for the Future of the Book (paging George Orwell…):

Stein sees larger implications for authors—some of them sobering for traditionalists. “Here’s what I don’t know,” he says. “What happens to the idea of a writer going off to a quiet place, ingesting information and synthesizing that into 300 pages of content that’s uniquely his?” His implication is that that intricate process may go the way of the leather bookmark, as the notion of author as authoritarian figure gives way to a Web 2.0 wisdom-of-the-crowds process. “The idea of authorship will change and become more of a process than a product,” says Ben Vershbow, associate director of the institute.

This is already happening on the Web. Instead of retreating to a cork-lined room to do their work, authors like Chris Anderson, John Battelle (”The Search”) and NYU professor Mitchell Stephens (a book about religious belief, in progress) have written their books with the benefit of feedback and contributions from a community centered on their blogs.

“The possibility of interaction will redefine authorship,” says Peter Brantley, executive director of the Digital Library Federation, an association of libraries and institutions. Unlike some writing-in-public advocates, he doesn’t spare the novelists. “Michael Chabon will have to rethink how he writes for this medium,” he says. Brantley envisions wiki-style collaborations where the author, instead of being the sole authority, is a “superuser,” the lead wolf of a creative pack.

An-ever updated book, written by a thousand keyboards. I couldn’t help imagine picking up a copy of Lolita, only to see Nabokov pecked to death by a thousand earnest voices. Not to sound too dramatic (too late, I know) but what a fucking loss that would be.

When I read a book I want to dive down into a world, or a consciousness, and listen to just one voice tell a story. I want to absorb just one person’s insights. I want to stay, listening to that story, and that voice, without interruption, for more than two minutes at a time. The thought of that one voice interrupted by a thousand others disturbs me to no end. But I’m not sure I buy that my preference for one author, and my distrust in the “wisdom of the crowd” means that I’m somehow against democracy.

I suppose this is why I prefer a nice long dinner with one or two friends over the chatter of a cocktail party. A good conversation with one friend makes me inordinately happy; it pulls me out of the gloom of my personal obsessions, the abandoned carnival of my mind, and briefly restores my faith in humanity. As in books, the more time I spend with one person, the better I understand them, and selfishly, myself.

In the month since I turned in my thesis, I’ve lost several days surfing the web, emerging at one or two a.m. feeling irritated and disgruntled. Certain things, like the internet, Playstation 3, and a tub of pudding, feel good in the moment. But they never feel good at the end of the day.

Unlike Philip Roth, who apparently doesn’t own a television, and spends his hours, when not writing, reading and rereading the classics of Literature, writers of my generation grew up with television and the internet. Some of them seem able to balance the twin pulls of literature and popular culture remarkably well. But I’m no good at it. Popular culture, so shiny and bright and sweet, swallows me whole and spits me out later with nothing to show for it but a more well-developed case of cynicism. Books feed me more, but they require more of me, too.

This isn’t so much a declaration of a new motivation for blogging, so much as a reminder to myself of what I’ve been trying to do all along. I don’t want to offer only hyperlinks and jpegs of naked rugby players. Not that I have anything against naked rugby players; I’m sure they’re very nice people, and if you sat down with them over coffee you might glimpse the richness of their inner lives.

But I guess I want to strive for the feel of literature conveyed through this form of pop culture. I’d like to try and offer one voice, one consciousness – flawed, grouchy, and a little too earnest – and hope that every once in a while somebody can relate, and maybe recognize themselves. I guess I want to give back to those writers who kept me company, and to provide a place where other people might leave feeling a little less alone in the world. That, interspersed of course with photos of Manly Fireplugs and my adorable puppy. Too much self-seriousness leads to bloating, and drives people to poke you with sharp sticks.

Stamped “Fresh” by the Ivy League

So the Manly Fireplug brought his iPod dock to Hawaii, and there we got laid to the sounds of Amy Winehouse, whom I liked much more than I thought I would. I mean, the song “Back to Black” kind of burrowed its way into my head, reminding me romantically of some of my past misdeeds. None of my current misdeeds, of course. I’m nothing but an honorable man now.

In the mornings we ate in the restaurant of our hotel, the Queen Kapiolani, affectionately nicknamed by our posse as “The Queen Krap.” The restaurant, like the rest of the hotel, had seen better days, but I appreciated its down-at-the-heels aesthetic. Kind of like Amy Winehouse, now that I think about it. A hotel forever caught in the tropics of 1973.

The Fireplug tore open a packet of C&H sugar for his coffee, then read its label. “Guess where this came from,” he said.

“The Big Island?” I asked.

“No. Yonkers.”

It was a repeat of our last year’s trip, though this year it was more of a working vacation for me, as I spent the two five-hour plane rides, and several hours a day in the Queen Krap, working on my thesis, which I Fed-Exed back to Columbia yesterday, in time for Monday’s deadline. Yep, that part of my life is now over. In May, if all goes well, I should get my MFA, which the Fireplug in Hawaii decided meant, “Mighty Fine Ass.” He’s sweet like that.

In January, upon first print, the thesis totaled 369 pages. I spent the next month cutting, fleshing out, and polishing it into a 270-page, leaner, meaner manuscript. And though it’s far from perfect, I’m proud of it.

I surpassed the 120-page minimum for thesis requirements, but at 270 pages it’s still only two-thirds of my intended book. I still have a lot of work ahead of me before I send it off to agents. So today I went back to my new office and back to work on the rest of the book. I read some interview recently with Michael Chabon, who writes 1000 words a day, five days a week. I figured I could do that, too.

Not too long ago the Fireplug was running into Spike’s coffee, across the street from his barbershop, and a boy at one of the outside tables yelled to him, “Hey! Tell Dogpoet to put some excerpts of his book on his blog!”

The Fireplug yelled back, “Fuck no! He’s done with giving it away for free!”

I really do love the guy.

My Dog Gets the Hiccups Everyday

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I suppose the only thing more annoying than a gay blogger going on and on about his hot boyfriend and their wonderful, mutually supportive relationship built on trust, open communication, and hot sex (note to Manly Fireplug: I beg you, do not reveal to my loyal readers that I am a singular Piece. Of. Work.) is a gay blogger who goes on and on about his new puppy.

Too bad for you. I am merely making up for the fact that I only have one, ONE, picture of Louie as a puppy, and it’s a murky polaroid.

And I know that the little monkey will be noticeably larger after the Fireplug and I return from our ten-day trip to Ireland, which we leave for in less than two weeks. We bought our plane tickets months ago, before Finley was even born, when Aer Lingus (heh, he said “Lingus”) announced cheap nonstop flights from San Francisco to Dublin, and when the Fireplug realized he was eligible for Irish citizenship, due to relatives who were born there.

Now he has an Irish passport, and has become much more valuable to me. For if everything goes to shit here, we might be able to sneak over to one of the other EU countries, where he can finally make an honest pervert out of me. So we’ll be touring the country, our itinerary planned around various relatives, through Dublin, Belfast, Derry, and Galway, taking our lives – and the lives of various locals – into our hands with the help of a rental car and two international drivers’ licenses.