Oh my god. My kids are going to wake up in 20 minutes. They are such a drag. They wake up at 8:40am every Sunday morning. I went to sleep last night around 8pm so I’m assuming they went to sleep about 2-3 hours later. Or maybe 6 hours later. I have no idea what goes on here at night. Maybe they had a wild drunken party with all of their friends. I didn’t find any cocaine or half-used tabs of LSD on the floor but who knows? Perhaps they cleaned it all up. They are ages 12 and 9.
And once they wake up, the pain begins. First they need to know what time it is. They can’t look at a goddamn clock on their own. They have to ask me while I’m typing on my very important document, “What time is it?” and whoever is up leans her sleepy body past my screen to squint at the time in the corner. “8:40am”.
And then, “what are we having for breakfast?” or even worse, “I’m hungry”. Get your own damn food! What do I look like? Ronald McDonald?
So I have to make something. Or I might have to drive without a license and pick a bunch of unhealthy pastries out from some random local place. And then, “What are we doing today?” Or, “Can we go to XYZ store so I can pick out my Secret Santa gift?”
So talking begins. And needing things. And then I have to supply the things needed. Kids are such pains in the ass. Who invented them?
Which also begs the question: I’ve been up since 4:50. What the hell have I done?
I read part of Celine’s “Death on the Installment Plan”. Not as good as “Journey to the End of the Night” so I’m not getting inspired in the same way.
Then I read a story from JD Salinger’s “9 Stories” called: “Just Before the War with the Eskimos”. Both Celine and Salinger spent their entire literary lives calling bullshit on everything around them and roughly made a living out of it. Not everyone who calls bullshit all the time can make a living out of it. Both of them ended up being somewhat reclusive, hating most people, but loving language. I would’ve been afraid meeting either of them. Like maybe in the back of their minds they would’ve called “bullshit” on me.
If you call “bullshit” on something you have to at least transform that energy into something you love, like both Celine and Salinger did. Else you might end up in a mental institution.
I then read part of Vollmann’s “Poor People”. It’s non-fiction so again I’m not getting a strong enough voice to propel me into writing. One thing that was interesting there is his constant attempts at defining what is “poor” – a question which is pertinent to today’s Occupy Wall Streeters. Is the 99% poor? Vollmann quotes Rousseau saying, basically, that the poor “savage” has food, a place to sleep, and a woman. But that luxuries like college, ownership, etc bring one above poor. I’d be happy if all I had was what the savage had. In our world, none of those things are guarantees.
I’m not feeling the “flow” though. Sometimes I read just a few pages from one good writer and I’m ready. So I picked up a collection of stories, “Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life” by Rob Roberge. I bought it because Amazon said he was “reminiscent” of Denis Johnson and Lorrie Moore. Two of my favorite writers. I read the story, “Earthquake” by him. It was good but I’m still struggling. I NEED MORE.
So I picked up “Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self Help Book” by the novelist Walker Percy. I qualify his name with “novelist” because it’s not quite a self-help book and its not quite a novel. The chapter I open to is a rant either for or against monogamy. Are we monogamous people or not. I happen to think we are. Or at least, I hope we are. Or I hope Claudia is. I shut the book.
I go to a site on my ipad that has the Buddhist Lama Pema Chodron giving commentary on the Lojong slogans. These were 57 slogans brought from India to Tibet in the 12th Century to try to transmit Buddhism. Maybe she has something inspirational to say that will inspire a post. One line catches me: “Don’t act with a twist”. What does she mean? Don’t do something that appears nice that actually has an ulterior motive so you get something for yourself.
Hmmm, I do this all the time. Many people in business do this. I’ve even named it “the James twist”. Like, if I say, “let’s do this one deal and then I have 20 more after this.” I don’t really know if I have 20 more. I might! But I’m really just saying, “lets do this one deal TODAY!” And I may or may not pick up the phone when you call me tomorrow. For everyone who I said this to today please ignore this paragraph and move on. I might stop doing “twists” as of today anyway.
Ugh, so I go sit at the computer. I have nothing yet. I feel like I’ve wasted two hours at least.
I go to a site: extragoodshit.phlap.net (not safe for work). Fred Lapides, who runs the site, intermixes interesting curation with photos of nude women. I don’t know why he does it. I wrote back and forth with him once. He’s over 80 years old, his wife is 26 years younger than him, he doesn’t generate money through ads, and I guess he feels some people go for the nude women and some people really do go for the articles. I go for both. I showed it to Claudia. She goes for both also. When I wrote to him he replied: “I am going on 82 and want to eat up social security before younger folks get it and do foolish things with it! I am trying to help them out in this way, and I figure that is an important contribution to make. I spend my time going about the net and post whatever catches my fancy.”
I find one interesting article on his site. About the artist Robert Rauschenberg who went to De Kooning’s studio in the 50s and wanted to get a painting from De Kooning that he could erase. He would’ve taken any painting. He brought a bottle of alcohol with him so he could loosen De Kooning up a little first just in case De Kooning was inclined to say “no”.
He just wanted a “yes”, take even a random drawing and then get the hell out of there before De Kooning changed his mind. Instead, De Kooning took his time. After Rauschenberg explained what he was up to De Kooning added to the concept. Not only would Rauschenberg erase a random De Kooning painting (and since De Kooning was already getting some renown there would be a decent amount of shock value to the concept) but De Kooning wanted Rauschenberg to erase a painting that De Kooning actually worked hard on and liked. So there would be shock value to De Kooning himself.
And the result was “Erased De Kooning”:
Several things were interesting to me:
A) Rauschenberg needed to create something unique. Certainly erasing a painting by a great artist is unique, even if Nothing is left after the erasing. There’s lots of ways to interpret what he did. There’s also lots of ways to value ($0, $10 million?) what he did and argue for or against $0. The lesson I get from this is: if you want to do something that thousands of other people are doing (writing a novel, painting a painting, making a blog, building a mobile location business), make sure you have features that are utterly unique and even shocking or repulsive. You have seven billion people on this planet, all competing with you to stand out, be unique, be creative, make something of value. How is your contribution to those seven billion people going to stand out?
B) De Kooning “got it” (he even said, “I get what you are doing”) and gave him something to erase that De Kooning had spent weeks working on. He knew he was essentially throwing away something he poured a piece of his soul into. I don’t know anything about either artist other than what I read about this one painting this morning. So Why was De Kooning so interested in destroying something he felt had value? Without this gesture of De Kooning’s (in affect, making De Kooning much more of a creator of the piece than just a footnote to it), the final work would be much less interesting.
C) Having a group. Rauschenberg needed a famous artist like De Kooning. De Kooning needed Rauchenberg to come up with the idea (and naming the final work “Erased De Kooning” is like a permanent advertising for De Kooning. The idea that even an erasure of his work still retains value would only increase De Kooning’s monetary value in the eyes of dealers and De Kooning knew this from not just an artistic sense but a very commercial one as well.
I always am envious of how generations of artists, writers, inventors, entrepreneurs become friends and over a period of decades continue to inspire each other and propel each other to greater and greater works. Certainly the on-again off-again friendship of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates was like that. As was Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Or Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs. And so on. I wonder, for myself, if I am building colleagues that will later be my “generation”. Of what? Blogging? Enterpreneurship? I don’t even know what I do. Maybe decades from now I will.
Ok, here she is. Mollie. The door opens. Claudia escaped five minutes earlier to begin her yoga practice. Even she knows the timing on these things.
“What time is it?” she says. She peers across my screen. She squints.
“8:36,” I am saying as I type this.
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