Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Still working that day job

Still working that day job. I'm going to make an effort not to get into that. After all, it's just the day job. The hard part, really, (and I blame society for this one) is that it remains difficult for me to remember and act as if (and expect others to follow suit) my day job is my second job. My first job, my passion, my career is my writing. No matter how little that is paying at any given time. And that is what this is meant to be about. Nominally. I guess. (What number blog reboot is this one now? 6?)

I don't have an office. I don't have a separate space in the apartment to work, to write, to think. My computer is attached to the same TV I watch Fraggle Rock on with my son. It's not ideal. Makes it easy to make excuses. Makes it easy to procrastinate. Sure I could start writing now. Or the wife and I could watch some more clever television. There's always something on Hulu or Netflix. (and somehow I still haven't gotten around to see all those Criterions on the queue.)
The out of the blue phone calls from the day job aren't much help either. Kinda have to take those. Life always intrudes. Sometimes you mind, sometimes you don't. Sometimes I don't realize that I have spent all my time set aside from writing and writing related research and now am faced with the decision of no writing or no sleep. With a kid set to wake up around 6am, the choice inevitably becomes no writing. I can get by skipping the writing.

And that's the problem, isn't it. The problem that keeps resurfacing, that makes the claim that this is not my job, not my career, not my life, that writing is a hobby. Writing doesn't pay the bills. I can skip a day and nothing will happen. Sure nothing gets done. But right now (with the novel anyway) I have no deadlines, no editors breathing down my neck. If I don't write, the only consequence is that I don't get anything written. Which is a big problem, but I can still pay the bills, still buy food, still have the energy to play with a rambunctious one year old. So there's that.

This is what it all comes down to, what this is all about: taking the writing seriously. Sure there are no "actual" consequences from skipping a day. But it's thinking like that that will keep me from finishing any of the projects I have in the works (and is why I have such a poor track record of finishing so many of the projects that I have started). Time to invent consequences. Otherwise it's not meant to be. If I can get by without writing, I guess I'm not a writer. So it goes.

There is also the professional aspect of it all. I have long said that I have an aversion to artists who do not "keep up appearances" who do not consider how they look and present themselves to be a reflection of their art. I make exceptions for older artists who came of age in a less visually overstimulated culture with its ever present cameras and camera phones. But for the rest of "us", frankly, I feel you have to look the part. To clarify, I don't think that means that everyone has to look like some cliched version of the "writer" or the "painter" or "performance artist". That is needlessly reductive. It is just that I feel that an artist's work (regardless of their medium) extends to their person, and thus their person and personal appearance must be considered with equal weight as anything else they would exhibit in public. Perhaps that seems superficial, but I feel that it coincides rather well with what has become the new standard of cutting edge marketing: the personal brand. Now this can be applied well and poorly, genuinely and shamelessly. Sometimes the audience can tell the difference, sometimes we can't. I went to B&N yesterday before work and picked up Trust Agents to help me out on this front.

Because, while I feel suitably confident in my work and presenting myself in public, I feel less confident in my web presence. I've been erratic in my blog posts. I offen dabble in incomprehensible nonsense (proudly). And I do not, effectively, protect my personal brand online. It's something to work on. I also picked up VanderMeer's Booklife. Together, they should help me get a handle on the business of being myself (as a business) and selling myself in an effort to sell my writing.

I finally went across the street on Monday and got a library card. It was a big deal for me. Settling in. Getting used to if not getting comfortable. You can't get anything done if you are always waiting for it to get better first. Baby steps.

"They’re spoonfeeding Casanova
To get him to feel more assured
Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence
After poisoning him with words"
- Dylan, "Desolation Row"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

FUN with cats and dogs and marmosets and green things and cannibalistic fish (yes, fish) (Jimi 6, the shark episode, part 1)

Jimi saw Jaws when it first came out. Since that early and defining moment of his young life he had always felt himself to be part shark. I guess that's why they called him "the Fix".

It was 1994 and Kurt Cobain had just left the world a bit more depressed. Jimi was listening to good music, reading a couple good books, and scoring decent X, but he felt that something was missing in his life. At first he though it was a woman.

It was 1995 and there was nothing new under the sun. Jimi was newly divorced and had a second child to show for it. Not that he knew his son at all. The boy would be 11, Jimi guessed. Maybe it was time he showed up and took the kid out whoring. Did estranged fathers still do that these days? (Sometimes Jimi the Fix lost track of what century he was living in and what dues he owed his liege.)

It was 1997 and Jimi was heading up the kitchen on a research station off Cape Agulhas. The scientists were studying Great Whites. Jimi was wondering why L.L. Cool J would be cast to play him in the movie. They were nothing alike.

[you know what happens here, shark attack, disaster, miracles, movie magic that defies science, and awesome science about awesome sharks that are awesome, Jimi makes soup]

... and Jimi kept that shark tooth with him until the day he died. He was buried with it, a suit of clothes, and a watch that belonged to the undertaker that had been carelessly misplaced.

STAY TUNED OR ELSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)$*@&@*(R#640985134578

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hamm, jam, spam, Ma'am. Let the prosody begin. (Jimi V)

Jimi was riding high on the crest of his newlywed bliss when the first of three things happened to him that had been fortold by the wise white rabbit, Longfoot Coney: he broke his arm. It was a freak accident. He fell down a flight of subway station stairs in the middle of a November sleeting. Maybe he was lucky it was only the arm. We are not here to speculate on futures that will never happen. Jimi put himself on the lookout for the next two signs. He wasn't ready to die


It was the woods. There was probably acid.

It had began as a normal walk in the woods away from civilization, responsibility, and social mores. Jimi began in by sounding a barbaric YAWP! in a basso timbre at a volume he had never previously dared express. The angel trumpets and devil trombones echoed in his joyous cry (G.L.O.R.I.A).

It was his third day eating wild mushrooms and berries that the nice naturist down by the creek recommended when the animals started talking to him. It began as whispers in the empty forest. Mostly about what was good to eat and whose coat was coming in good this season, boy did she look smokin'. But then it got weird. Jimi stopped by a tree stump, drank some water, and smoked a bowl. And waited. Two days later Longfoot Coney came and introduced himself. In return for the knowledge of the wilderness, Longfoot took from Jimi memories, emotions, and the psychic scars of a life of petty crime and recreational drug abuse. Talking animals get off on that shit. Longfoot threw in a death prophecy for shits and giggles. He had never meant for it to come true.

The prophecy went something like this:

"In the beginning there will be three signs:" Longfoot Coney spoke in a clipped tone, eyes rolling into the back of his head, mumbling and shaking like a wino with the DTs.

"1. You will break your arm.
2. You will contract syphilis.
3. A clown will give you three gifts, one of which is more than it seems.

Then you will be betrayed by someone close to you, someone you did not expect.

Then you will die.

Do you want me to go on?"

Jimi did, but Longfoot didn't have much more to say and none of it is really worth repeating. Who cares where secret lettuce patches are or the wormhole to Alice's Restaurant is? Didn't think so.

Anyway, stay tuned for the shark.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

glass abattoir: Jimi the Fix makes his name on history

"Everybody knows."
- Uncle Leonard

It was morning in America and Jimi the Fix was sniffing glue with Marky Ramone.

By night Jimi was writing long form essays exploring everything from critical theory to political economics. Though not technically trained in anything, Jimi was something of an autodidact and his Xeroxed pages were collected and treasured like Dylan bootlegs in certain circles. (They were posthumously published in a three volume collection as Welcoming the Void: The Burden of Intelligence during the Cold War with a foreword and afterword by Dr. Hubert Gaintree, PhD.)

Occasionally Jimi mainlined heroin. In was New York. In the 80s. Like tagging crumbling walls and subway trains with Dali replications and dada originals, it was part of fitting in with the crowd. He grew to enjoy the particular taste of crimini mushrooms and was technically homeless for at least 3 -4 years. During that time two girlfriends gave birth to children that were not his. Though he considered himself artistically satisfied in a way that he would never again achieve, he felt that he was becoming quite the misanthrope. He retired to a hermitage in the Adirondacks in order to find peace and talking animals.

The next stage of his life reads almost exactly like a Norther European fairy tale.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Jimi had never and would never meet Dexter Burroughs. He did, however, feel the accidental side affects of Dexter's handiwork. To date Dexter Burroughs has never counted among his kills any collateral damage. This statistic is only true, however, because Jimi's shoe came untied at exactly the right moment. Allow me to explain:

Jimi had been running numbers and a few substances on the side with the full knowledge and permission of several influential gentlemen and their associates for going on eight years. He hadn't been moving up (his family had no connections, he was just a two bit con who happened to have a name ending in a vowel) but he had been making money. An enterprising individual, Jimi had diversified his business(es): he ran newsstand (which made his illicit distributions simpler), he owned several more, he pioneered the idea of coffee and donut carts (at least in his neighborhood where he owned 7) and he made sure that the kids had their ice cream in the afternoon and the businessmen had their umbrellas on rainy days. His work was semi-legitimate and profitable, he was a noted member of the Chamber of Commerce and the local Kiwanis Club. Then came the misery. Jimi met Caroline, the devil's twin sister (twice as mean and much more attractive in the form fitting mini dresses.)

Caroline hired Dexter to remove a certain CEO of a certain multinational competitor of the Cavendish Corporation. The bomb went off 20 minutes after Jimi was scheduled to make a weekly horse drop. Jimi was late because his dick was burning (from the syph, he was careless during the 80s and 90s and slept with a fair compliment of dirty men and women despite the scares and warnings. He was not, what one would call, an ideal citizen.) and he had spent the last hour drinking cheap wine and crying in a public men's room. Throughout his 30s, when asked why Jimi had stopped saying "never trust anyone over 30", Jimi always responded that syphilis had saved his life. The conversation always ended there. Dexter Burroughs was successful in the hit. Later he would be contracted to remove Caroline. In this too, he was successful. Jimi was taken out by competitors. Dexter was not jealous. It was the nature of the business and he charged a premium rate. The bomb was a precision job that barely did any damage to the structure of the building and was noted by police and FBI inspectors as being premium work beyond any level they had previously seen.

Jimi drank red wine on the night he was betrayed, I drank red wine while writing this post (coincidence?)

When James Michael Ruffino was born he cried, his father smoked a cigar, his mother lay in a hospital bed uncomfortably, and the Indy 500 crowned a new champion. It was 1969 and Mario Andretti was Jimi's father's second favorite American Hero. That a 2 and 1/2 month old James Michael made an appearance at Woodstock should clue you in on who came in first on Paolo's list (it was not little Arlo).

At six, little Jimi had broken both arms and both legs (not at the same time), spent a total of 6 months in a hospital, and had conned all his friends and acquaintances out of their allowances for 2 years running. He spent the money on comics that he read once and then stored in plastic. The collection, willed to his daughter Constance Marie, would sell for a surprising total of $1.73 M.

At ten, Jimi was permanently excused from attending school (his arguments for "street smarts" were very persuasive).

At 15, Jimi had slept with all of his mother's friends (married, single, men, etc).

At 17, Jimi was working full time for the Family and living in Alphabet City shithole. He was not addicted to heroin, though he had tried it and did sell it at a tidy profit that he kicked up the chain.

At 21, Jimi had married and divorced the Don's younger daughter. He counted every day he remained alive as a blessing. He began to compose his memoirs.

Yes, in part 3 there is still going to be a bomb.

Hey Kids! Have you heard the story I am about to make up about Jimi the Fix? No? Well then, listen close: ...

An abstraction. A thought experiment for an experience machine.

Sometimes you have to wonder.

New computer. New pint of cheap wine. (not that young anymore) And staring at the ashes, the ruins, the wreckage of a life, the lost aberrations(a systemic anomaly The Architect and The Oracle will pretend to fight over to stave off boredom and rake in millions) of a system that is running on fumes. It would seem that I have

1. quarterlife (+/-)

He took the boardwalk like a fish to water. A dead fish, scaled and filleted for the grilling. That is to say, he dropped, bleeding, with a few more holes in his head than he had asked for and a longing for a slice of Aunt Jen's Kiwi Lime Pie. Even his wife and kids thought he deserved it. His mistresses missed the money but not the sex.

In death, Jimi the Fix was to prove far more formidable than in life. That, however, comes later. First, his son: Gerald Byron, 26, carpenter.

Gerald Byron, 26, was a carpenter. He was not skilled. He did, however, enjoy his work and dedicated much of his time and talents to charity. This was how he met his wife: she volunteered in soup kitchens serving the men (mostly) and women and children for whom he built readymade houses. Gerald had an odd relationship to charity work. Unlike his soon-to-be wife, he did not approach helping the less fortunate with a sense that those who can give back should give back. He did not feel he owed anyone anything. Nor, though, did he feel that he was in charity because he could not hack it as a regular carpenter or contractor in the "real world". His skill level was what it was. He would never build furniture. He was no artist. He did not delude himself. Perhaps, though it is truly hard to find a fixed answer to a question so weighted, but perhaps, he built houses for those who could not afford to buy them because they understood the value of a house. Of a house as shelter, as basic human need. Of a house as home instead of investment, instead of a temporary way station and source of equity. Perhaps he enjoyed that for his clients, his work had obvious, distinct, concrete meaning. Perhaps. Gerald was a quiet man and kept his thoughts and feelings close to the chest. He supplemented his income by winning at poker (every third weekend at the Indian Casino, never deviate from the pattern. Deviation marks a gambling problem, call the 800 number). His father was shot twice in the head, once in the chest on a tuesday in March. Gerald was in Tennessee that month, he built four homes for 13 people and 3 dogs.

Stay tuned for the THRILLING continuation of the Epic of Jimi the Fix (spoiler: part 3 contains a bomb and part 6 contains a shark)