Hey you kids! Get offa my lawn or I’ll call the polis.

I haven’t checked this space in weeks. I was unaware that comments were left regarding my absence. My Bride brought them to my attention. All apologies for my negligence. I’ve also done very little reading and commenting on other blogs. The thing that drove me to contribute and participate in this community these past 5+ years has dried up and blown away. *PFFT* Just like that. The tank is empty. The bus is not in service. The bakery ran out of yeast. Pick a metaphor or make up your own.

In September I went away with My Bride to Napa Valley for a well-deserved, badly-needed holiday. Shortly thereafter I wrote a post about it. I read it. Then I read it again. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was so bad, so mind-numbingly dull, that it knocked the wind out of me. I didn’t realize I was capable of such banalities. It was no better than a poorly-written Facebook post. When Betty White hosted Saturday Night Live, her opening monologue included a dig at Facebook; that when she was young, being forced to look at people’s vacation pictures was considered a form of punishment. And that’s what reading this post was. Punishment. Then I scrolled back, back, way back and they ALL seemed wholly inadequate to me. I couldn’t bear to look at them anymore so I didn’t. I had an epiphany. The bad kind. A few weeks later I tried writing another post but when my fingers touched the keyboard they turned to stone. If I want to write bad Facebook posts, I’ll open a bad Facebook page. lol. OMG.

In the interim, I filled my new-found free time with reading and I was able to cut through three extraordinary books in a row, which did my ego no good whatsoever. Have you ever read a book that was so well-written that when you turned a page, you wanted to tear it out and eat it? I read THREE of those, one after another.

I know my colleague Graham was unimpressed, but I think Hilary Mantel’s writing is plump and juicy. It took me forever to finish Bring Up the Bodies because some of her paragraphs were so perfectly constructed that I had to back-track and reread them over and over. I’ll never be able to write like that and if I can’t write like that, I don’t want to write anything at all.

Then I read Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis. So funny. I’ll never be that funny on paper. Neither will you. (Unless, of course, you happen to be Martin Amis and you’re reading this post.) I attended his reading in Brooklyn when the book was released and it was his voice that I heard reciting that sharp dialogue and those twisty sentences.

Then a real surprise. I read The Richard Burton Diaries. Yeah…the actor Richard Burton. It was an impulse purchase. I remember it getting a good review last year. Burton was an astonishing writer. Who knew! What an interesting life that guy lead. Gallivanting around Europe. Making films, some award-winning, some terrible. Hobnobbing with interesting people. Bored by the politicians, fans, journalists and glitterati he was forced to meet. I devoured it (a 600+ page brick!) while in my commute, office, commute, office, commute, office, commute, office rat trap. Obviously, we can’t all be married to Elizabeth Taylor (twice!) but is this really all I’m cut out for?

I lost my mojo, brothers and sisters. I thought I had a nice little groove going here but my groove ain’t a groove at all. It’s a rut. And, please, I’m not fishing for compliments or begging for approval, despite all appearances to the contrary. I’m too old and numb for that. But I was moved by the comments left and I felt I owed an explanation. Did anyone Google that Bukowski poem that Christy quoted? “…pulled down into the gluey dark.” C’mon, man. That’s pretty good. I got choked-up when I read it. It was brought to my attention at vulnerable moment. I’ll try to not let that happen again.

napa

Saturday, September 14th, 8:15 a.m., The Leonardini Vineyards, Napa Valley. Breakfast, coffee and the newspaper. NOT a rut.

52 thoughts on “Hey you kids! Get offa my lawn or I’ll call the polis.

  1. Just read the poem. It speaks my heart.
    Glad you are still around – no homilies from me.
    Thanks for the heads up re reading material. Richard Burton was an archetypal Welshman – an artist in his every corpuscle – just wasn’t so good a film actor as his late wife. xoxox

    • I though about you at ever page turn. You really should read it. It seems like something you’d enjoy, perhaps even more so than I did. But start at 1965. Everything leading up to that is filler and fluff. The sails really unfurl while filming Taming of the Shrew.

  2. Welcome back friend.
    I just bought Slouching Toward Nirvana, one of Bukowski’s last poetry greats. I sometimes take on the persona of Henry Chinaski and consider him of the greatest characters ever invented. Truly honest, gifted and damaged all wrapped up in this dirty package. I also know something about stepping away from the assembly line, it does the soul wonders to refresh and rekindle the ideas that brought you here in the first place. I too was away but not on a book reading and wine sipping tour, my unasked holiday came with an orange jumpsuit. Welcome back, I look forward to your future postings.
    Sausage…

    • I thought you were gone for good. I even took you out of my feeder. Usually, if someone doesn’t post for about four months, I assume they’ve given up and won’t be back. Glad to see you but sorry to hear about the wardrobe change. First, I’ll add you to my reader, then I’ll pop over for a detailed explanation of your absence (if you’ve provided one).

      Bukowski has gotten me through many a crisis by making me realize that my crisis aren’t really crisis at all. He’s good for perspective. And he has a way with the word. Simple and elegant.

  3. I know this is how you feel. And far be it from me to try to talk you out of your feelings….BUT,,,,,,I just can’t help myself. They really did a job on you. You have NO IDEA what a GREAT writer you are. And you are, my dear…YOU ARE.
    YOU are YOU….No one else. And you have your unique special voice. And I for one, NEED THAT!!! Screw all those others….You Write Like You and It Is BRILLIANT!!! Pat is much nicer than me. I’m not letting you off the hook…..I hate that your father, or whomever never saw the beauty in YOU……
    PLEASE, My Dear, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER compare yourself to others……they are themselves, and YOU….YOU, BE YOUR WONDERFUL BRILLIANT SELF, PLEASE!!!!!!
    OY! What did Fucking Napa do to you???? (So sorry you didn’t come South……)..WHO Made you feel like nothing??? I HATE THEM!!!! I really do.

    Forgive my open anger and hurt at how YOU have been made to feel “Less Then”…..You are so not “Less than”……Forgive, please…..

    I have wanted to read the Burton Diaries and now, I will do so…..A agree with Pat about Elizabeth….She was underrated just like Vivien Leigh was by Olivier—-whose acting was often atrocious!!! Hers was pure. Just as Elizabeth’s was, too.

    • Listen…this is exactly what I wasn’t looking for. I’m from Ohio and we’re not good at accepting compliments, but I’ll be gracious and thank you. CAPS and all. As far as comparing myself to others…it’s something I’ve always known to be a waste of time, but have continued to do it nonetheless. I’m powerless against it. It’s kind of my ninja skill. At least I compare myself to people who are masters of their craft. I’ve got that much going for me.

      Funny thing about Taylor…Burton wrote that when she won the Oscar for Virginia Wolf, she was away filming and couldn’t be on hand to accept. They asked Brando to stand in on her behalf, which he gladly did. During the acceptance speech, he yelled at everyone for not acknowledging her talent much earlier! Gave it to them about Burton, too! You should read it. It was a great, fun surprise.

      • I knew you would not be happy with me and what I said—but,….I said it and i’m glad and what I said is the truth.
        I was reminded of a little book about Alberto Giocometti , written a long time ago, where the writer described his—Giocometti’s unhappiness with his work—He NEVER liked anything he did and was never satisfied with anything he created and always felt it never came out the way he had imagined it in his mind, and, he felt a failure….And to me, he is one of the Great Great Sculptors of any age or period….And one day when the writer was arriving at his studio there was Giocometti angrily throwing all kinds of drawings out into the dumpster…..it’s almost unimaginable…but, that’s how he felt. It was horrifying to the writer, and he tried to retrieve as many of the drawings as possible. Actually, it was almost funny if it hadn’t been so very sad—because Giocometti truly felt that way.

        One other thought: Stephen Sondheim wrote this great line in a song from “Sunday In The Park With George”, where Dot is singing to her supposed Grandson who is an Artist, doubting himself…..’Anything you do, let it come from you, then it will be new…..give us more to see’……

        I say this to you, my dear. You have so much to say and it is always right from your heart and your mind.

        (Sorry about the CAPS…..I never learned whatever it is that CAPS are supposed to mean on the Internet.. They just give expression to how strong I feel about things….)

      • Oh, shoot, dear I wasn’t the least bit unhappy! Quite the opposite. It’s nice to read. It doesn’t loose it’s power to move, even after the fifth and sixth read.

        Look at you quoting Soundheim. I’m not surprised one bit.

        And I don’t mind your CAPS one bit! They’re expressive and you use them judiciously.

  4. Listen well my friend, absorb my advice and perhaps reflect. On your frequent visits to the many art galleries, do you honestly like and admire every painting, sculpture and remplissage that you pass? Of course the answer will be no. It doesn’t however stop you from return visits to the galleries though. Are you seeing the crux here?

    It doesn’t matter when you write or what you write about. The whole point of recording our thoughts, feelings, life’s events, even the mundane ones, is because we put time and intelligent thought into our words. They are not drawn lightly from any old shallow well. Me personally, I find you interesting subject matter, even if you do on occasion fail to have confidence in yourself. Typical American male… perhaps in the next life you will be reborn a Celt and never have another personal crisis of self-belief.

    To finish with, I would quite happily continue to read every word you find time to blog rather than a hundred thousand empty bottles of pish found within the great toilet that is the sad book of blellum faces.

    Let’s not ever have to have this conversation again, eh?

    • Man, you give the best boots in the ass that money can buy. I remember, years ago, when I was laid off and failed to land a job I was all “oh, woe, whatever shall I do?” and in just three or four short paragraphs you landed enough punches to snap me out of it. That’s not an acquired skill you’ve got. That’s an innate ability. A damn useful one.

      I can only PRAY to be a Celt in my next life. Maybe with a honeyed voice that can make the ladies swoon. I married into the culture thinking that would do the trick but my soft American side won out. Tiz a pity.

      I misread “…even the mundane ones…” as “…even the murderous ones…” What would Dr. Freud make of that?

      • Dr Freud would have made exactly what I told him to make of any discussion we might have had. He was afterall an intelligent man. I can also be somewhat persuasive.

        Not all Celts are honeyed of voice, articulate, house-trained, handsome and physically strong. But then you already know my very good friend in Limerick.

  5. I have been feeling much the same as of late. I write only when I am really moved to do it, and try not to feel much guilt about it. There are a few who miss me, and others who probably don’t even realize I am gone. Thanks for more books to add to my Goodreads. Currently my “To Read” section is so long, I don’t think I could read all of them in two lifetimes.

    Lucky you, what is this thing called “vacation”??

    • It’s a big bloggy ocean and we’re just two spits. I know a couple of people whose absence would make real waves, but I don’t think that’s the case for you and I. We can form a support group!

      That vacation, my dear, was a long time coming. Several years, in fact. I do NOT count trips that include Disney characters as a proper vacation. Those are more of the giant, expensive, pain in the ass variety. Trips to visit family quality as vacation, but just barely.

      • Whatever shall we call this support group?? And where are we going to meet? It’s already falling to freezing at night here in Kansas, so I hope it’s someplace warm and sunny! 🙂

      • Ummm…the ocean spits? No. That’s gross. As long as we’re dreaming…let’s meet in French Polynesia, shall we? When I left the house this morning at 5:20 it was only 34 degrees. Here it comes, like it or not.

  6. i lost my mojo on several occasions, but in the summer of 2012 i was done. it took a friend who needed to put a bullet in his head before i felt compelled to write again…

    as for the quality of the writing? honey, if we wrote like those guys we wouldnt be blogging – we’d be writing freakin’ novels like they do! this is not art – it’s a means to organize your own thoughts and feelings. therapy of a sort. the connections we make through sharing those thoughts? that’s the real shit, my friend. that’s the craic… and why i’ll keep poking around out here.

    now, about those Celtic boys… should they ever pay you a visit? Dibs on the big one…

  7. I can understand and sympathize with blogging burnout as I’ve gone through it numerous times over the years. Sometimes walking away from something that you love because it became a chore is the best thing that you can do to either become rejuvenated or realize its time to pack it up.

    • Is that all this is? A simple case of blogging burnout? Now that you mention it I suppose you’re right, but I made it into something that rattled my core. My dramatic sense of being Unfulfillment is nothing more than boredom with the same old thing. Okay. Back up on my cross, then.

  8. I had noticed your absence but wasn’t going to say anything about it because there’s nothing so simulataneously well-meaning and irritating at the same time.

    We’ve all got stuff forever hanging in this strange space we call the internet for ever, that is banal. And don’t worry–I’m not going to start getting all “encouraging”, but you do have a distinctive voice, which infinitely compensates for the inevitability, in all writers, of the odd flat patch.

    I understand the point sabout not forcing it, but I also think there is something to be said for *having* to write *something*. I see that as a technical exercise: how can I make a piece better when I lack that flowing spontaneity and gut-feeling.

    As we say up here, in all situations up to and including an imminent and grotesque demise–ye’ll be reet.

    PS Thanks for the Bukowski suggestions (you’ve done a couple lately). It’s fucking brilliant 🙂

    • Honestly, *I* barely noticed my absence! Writing fell out of my head. As I mentioned, I gave it a go a few weeks later but it wasn’t fun. The quirky thing is that I started keeping a journal back in high school, so I’ve been doing this sort of thing for, quite literally, many decades. That I would suddenly come to a screeching halt and not feel to gutted about it is the biggest surprise.

      I’ve said it before: Bukowski is the man. He doesn’t speak in vague metaphors or flowery prose. I have a friend who teaches college literature and he said he can never include Bukowski in his syllabus because there’s nothing to examine or dissect. It’s all there on the surface. That, to me, is the strength of his work. His writing is clean and succinct.

      • That’s a depressing thought–that only literature that can be taken apart for academic dissection is worth teaching.

      • Yeah, he’s not crazy about it but that’s admin policy. Fortunately, according to him, most of he students are fully aware of Bukowski already and require no introduction.

  9. See you disappear for a bit and eveyone worries about you, sometimes you gotz to do udder tings you know, it’s good to get away for a bit, of course i could fuck off for ages and no one would know it but i don’t really mind, i sorta like it that way, i’ve been making a concentrated effort to read more as well since i don’t have my gig that let me read all day (or most of it anyway), it’s good for my head… and you know for a minute there a i thought my beloved Browns might actually have a winning season, hope springs eternal in this hard head of the Rust Belt boy…

    • Honesty, I couldn’t imagine anyone noticing so imagine how humbled I felt when my Bride said, “You’d better check your comment section…” Having the extra reading time was nice. I hate when a good book ends. Goodbye to the characters. The story. It stinks.

      Oh, woe the Browns. I was hoping too, as I still have a soft spot and always will. Wouldn’t it be cool to see them have a really killer season? Just once? I’d love to see them foul Kansas City’s unblemished record this Sunday. You never know! On any given Sunday, etc.! At least the Steelers are an old, broken-down embarrassment. That’s a plus.

  10. Well, I’m glad that you’ve finally surfaced. I was worried you were having a mid-life crisis, although you give me that impression when you’re OK. I hope you rediscover your belief in your writing, because it’s always been interesting to hear what’s on your mind.

    • Oh, my Lord, can you imagine what I’ll be like when I have my mid-life crisis!? A little red sports car and an Asian girlfriend named Yum-Yum who’s young enough to be my daughter won’t be enough to placate my turbulent, aging, raging hormones. Hopefully I’ll still be blogging when that happens so everyone can enjoy the show. Thanks for your kind words. I’ll send you $1.

  11. well, OK, then, Hye!

    you already know how i feel, so i ain’t sayin’ anything …

    Except….

    where’d y’all go in napa? we’ll be in the wine country again for a week and sf for 3 days soon. visiting sinskey, reynolds, imagery/benzinger vineyards for drinks o’plenty! ;~)

    as you always remind me, write when you want to and i’ll be here!

    xoxoxxo

    • We went to St. Helena, a little north of Napa itself. Loved it. Really peaceful. It was harvest week. The vines were heavy with ripe, purple grapes. I have some pretty pics. I ran in the mornings through the vineyards. Maybe I’ll do a post about it. If you get up that way, have dinner at the Culinary Institute. Not obscenely expensive and a nice meal.

      • been to both places and absolutely loved them! last time we were in nocal was ’09, so its time for a return. we’ll be staying in healdsburg. i’m a cali girl by birth, so it’s old home week whenever i’m in the golden state, sweet pea. xoxoxo

      • Have you been to the Schramsburb (sp?) winery? Cool caves and excellent (but expensive) wines.

  12. I want you to knock off this shit about your writing……Seriously, you write extremely well, have a heck of a lot to say, and every damn word is GOLD! Everyone needs a break now and then, so quite knocking yourself for taking one. As I have said previously, I LOVE your blog, whether or not it is twice a week or yearly. Write when you feel like it, when you feel you have something to say, and when you feel like sharing. One thing about blogs, you owe your readers nothing, we are not paying you, and we are just grateful to hear from you now and then….So quit beating yourself up and just write when you feel like it. I learn something every time…..be it art, NYC, your daughters, that stupid dog, whatever……Really, the only one you have to please with your blog is YOURSELF…….you do that and the rest of us will be happy with the results……Vaya con dios!

    • Well, thanks for that, brother. I didn’t think anything of stopping and didn’t think of it as a break but in hindsight, taking time off was kind of nice. As for beating myself up, this something I’ve done my whole life. I’m not bragging or making light. I hate it. I’ll work on it. And I’ll continue to post and take a break when necessary.

  13. I just started reading you this year and then you were gone. I would check everyday for something from you. The worst case I could think of was a NYC mugging. I’m a simple guy from Ohio who enjoys your blog. Not a facebook guy. Ditto what ‘CHEF’ wrote. Glad you are back. If your readers cover the spectrum of knowing Crokett & Tubbs or never heard of them, then you must be interesting and a good read.

    • Not this time. I was mugged 3x over the 20-odd years I was in NYC. Have you ever been mugged? It’s a pretty impressionable thing to have happen. It stays with you a long time. You spend lot of time in revenge-fantasy land. Thanks for your kind words and for reading.

    • Dude. Seriously? Not liking Mantel makes you totally ignorant? I don’t think so. How about this? The fact that you’re a virtuoso while I’m still struggling to make a proper F chord that doesn’t buzz makes me totally ignorant. Pretty much evens the score in my mind.

    • Pull up a chair. Grab a cup of tea. I’ll tell you a story about a boy with a lack of confidence who can really turn out a paragraph when he has a mind to.

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