Author Unknown (Pt. 4)

July 12, 2020

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Promoting yourself made you as many enemies as fans. Haters relentlessly trolled you online calling you untalented, vainglorious or worse. Colleagues wondered if you were paying more attention to your novels than your job. Your wife thought you were chasing windmills. To some extent they all were right. But the genie was out of the bottle; you simply had to keep trying. Something would click. You would have the last laugh.

One morning, you saw a complete stranger reading your novel on the “El” in Chicago. Small sample, but no less thrilling, it was all you could do to keep from introducing yourself to the reader. In terms of validation this rare sighting would have to do.

Much later, your daughter’s high school art teacher read two of your novels, one after the other. During that relatively long period of time, he had constantly told her how good they were. Your daughter respected her teacher and by him praising your work you knew she respected you. Any glimmer of awe she had towards you was significant. Especially given how you’d fallen from her pedestal. This would have to do.

The accolades you received for copywriting, the wealth it provided, ego trips. For many, that would have done quite nicely. For you it wasn’t enough. Like Icarus you’d reached sublime heights, until your wings got clipped and you fell to earth.

In the end as in the beginning, a writer writes. Writing for its own sake, without the obsession for income or outcome. A writer writes. This, too, will have to do.

(If you’re interested in any of my books please click on the links right side of this blog. Thank you!)

The Flicker Inside (3)

March 19, 2020

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Fun.

Maybe in high school, where after a few beers you became giddy and loose, laughed at TV commercials, enjoyed the wobbly feeling and loss of control. Hidden in back alleys and basements, you and your cohorts reveled in breaking the law. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Then drugs and alcohol became prerequisite to parties, dates, movies and concerts, the joys of those things no longer joyful without them. Using became the party. Then in lieu of the party. Then only it.

In college, your passion for writing and heavy drinking were one and the same. Oh, how you romanticized it! Your right hand on the keyboard your left hand on a drink. You were like Hemingway. Jim Morrison. To this day you still type with only one hand.

Upon entering the work force you listed drinking as a hobby on your resume, along with reading, writing and fishing. Such audacity. They hired you anyway.

to be continued…

A Chorus of Sirens

March 5, 2020

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Everyone, you think, is some kind of addict. Be they active, recovering, or on the brink. Passions which are good become obsessions which are bad. People are self-seeking. This is the human condition, the result of Original Sin. Yearning. Craving. Lusting. Demanding. Wanting. Needing. Soothing. The seeds of addiction are there, have always been there. Many are able to temper these urges, denying the seeds what they need to flourish. But they’re still there. Waiting for a deluge, a perfect storm of misery or even joy… or just another shitty day. Then boom! Out comes the Hagen Das. The lonely housewife turns on the TV and never turns it off. An old man retreats to the garage for a smoke. Some concede to only a few addictions. Maybe they are harmless ones – a gardening obsession, collecting figurines. Or weird: like hoarding. Hidden from the world. In others the seeds erupt as soon as they touch a nerve, like weeds in a vacant lot. Out of control. You’ve met no one who has not succumbed to something. Drugs and alcohol are the poster children for addiction. But plenty else is out there.

Most of the jobs people do are motivated by addiction. The salesman would like nothing more than for everyone to be addicted to his wares. Many are called dealers. They give out samples. The chef wants you to crave his cooking, the barista her coffee. And so on. If one deconstructs any vocation creating and/or satisfying needs and wants were at its core. Your job in particular was culpable. In more than a poetic sense advertising worked every one of the seven deadly sins. The theme for your advertising blog: We make you want what you don’t need. Indeed. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a litany of demands that must be met.

You suppose teaching is not inherently linked to a type of addiction. Considered noble and selfless, teaching gets a pass. Undoubtedly, there are other clean human activities. But you are not trying to win an argument; you are merely making an observation. As an addict of many things you are wont to rationalize your behavior. This theory of yours is likely an example.

It’s late. You sit outside smoking your Swisher, a cheap “cigarillo” that dope smokers also use to lace their weed. On this night, as on most nights, you hear the coyotes wailing from the adjacent hills and valleys. They sound hungry or horny. Wanting something badly. Like a chorus of sirens. In Chicago, you would lie in bed at night listening to the police cars and ambulances, wondering where the fire was, if anyone was dead or dying. At the time you did not realize how much they sounded like coyotes. A thousand miles due south, where California ends and Mexico begins coyotes are what they call the nefarious men who smuggle illegals across the border, often using the same hidden paths and dried arroyos that the drug smugglers use. Illicit desires. Unsavory dealers. Whether it’s for a better life or merely a bag of heroin, there is unmistakable craving shot through all of it.

Eve Babitz

February 26, 2020

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Overlooked as a writer for being a looker, the bombshell author, Eve Babitz. You discovered her while reading a biography of Jann Wenner, the mercurial founder of Rolling Stone magazine. She was merely a footnote, yet you were immediately smitten. Babitz would become infamous for the now-iconic photograph of her playing chess with Marcel Duchamp in the nude. The old man had thankfully worn clothes. Yet Eve was in all her glory. Wavy dark hair obscures her face, highlighting the body. And what a body! Eve’s proud breasts cantilevered over the chessboard and your imagination. By her own admission, Eve was a party girl, part of the in-crowd in 1970’s LA. And she liked to fuck. A lot. Unabashed about her lust, Eve considered sex an art form. Her –ahem– position was that even the most average person could become an artist by creating “sexual masterpieces.” To Eve, sex was creation and nothing to be ashamed of. Eve, you quickly learned, was also a gifted writer. In between carrying on with many luminaries or just lucky guys she met at one of her favorite haunts, she managed to write numerous books. None best sellers but those who read and reviewed them said they were special, capturing not only the gossipy aspects of her life but also the druggy, smoggy, sun drenched milieu of Los Angeles in the seventies. She was compared to Joan Didion, her peer and good friend during those heady years. In a fit of passion, you promptly order both women’s books, lustfully reading them one after the other, alternating between the two as if in a three-way. Didion you’d heard of but of “Eve Babitz with the great big tits” you were ignorant. Not anymore. A zaftig siren, a flirter of men and fame, blithely taking her own talent for granted, Eve was irresistible.

 

Back to School.

February 16, 2020

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You’re studying to be certified as a drug and alcohol counselor. After 30 years, back to school. At Berkeley no less! Is this the end game: parlaying your alleged gifts as an AA speaker into a vocation? You wouldn’t be the first. In every class so far at least half the students are recovering alcoholics and addicts, like you. The others already work in the field, getting certified in order to advance their positions: in treatment facilities, government and social services, caregivers.

Your wife is at school, too, and is nearly finished getting her degree in interior design. For three years, she’s been dutifully driving to the city two nights a week. You believe part of a plan for when you’re out of the picture. A security blanket, if you will, having a job in a world she knows so well. It’s also admirable, her continuing education. That’s what people say about a thing like that; it’s the party line. Finally, you suppose, it is something to do. A learning experience, literally.

Now it’s your turn. Advertising will be what you must now call your “previous life.” After 25 years, the ad game is over, its last cards turned over. You tell yourself that counseling is the door opening and believe it, for the most part. Helping others, you think, will have meaning, and be purposeful. Shame you’ve never been particularly good at it: helping others. There are those who called you a mentor but you can count them on one hand and, being honest, you think they may have been just saying so, for whatever reason. What you hold onto, what you must in order to continue the classes, is that you can and do help people who are addicts and alcoholics. They tell you so all the time, at meetings, after you share, and this was not a place for lying.

Author’s note: Would you like to read more of this? Or maybe there is something I can help you write?