Jim Trainer

Archive for the ‘writing about writing’ Category

BEWARE THE FIRST PERSON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

In Being A Writer, depression, mental health, Performance, recovery, self-help, Writing, writing about writing on November 30, 2017 at 2:48 pm

Sometimes I wonder, why do we tear ourselves to pieces?
-Paul Simon, Horace and Pete

Second chances are getting harder to come by these days.
-Michael “Corky” Corcoran

Do you enjoy being on this side of history?
-Someone commenting on Michael Corcoran’s Facebook Page last week

Jim Trainer’s writing is not for the weak. It’s like stepping in dogshit barefoot.
-Ignacio on Pterodáctilo

Writers feel like the best thing they have to offer is the worst thing that ever happened to them.

I am the pressman, acknowledge me…
-Primus, The Pressman

Warmest Greetings from the War Room.  I’m at a loss but what else is new?  Sometimes I wonder:  why do I have to be in trouble to create?  The last couple written blogs on here, well, shit–pretty gnarly ain’t it though.  I’m on deadline so that means I have to mine for kernels of life, exceptional or otherwise. On a slow news day a bird on a wire can be newsworthy, especially if his beady yellow eye speaks to me of my own hunger and unsavory instincts.  Sadly, equally unsavory and unresolved relations with others make it on here, too.  Usually I don’t mind.  Revenge is a great motivation.  By the time I write about someone, I feel they’re long gone anyway.  Nothing to salvage so may as well trash ’em and get on with it.  If that doesn’t sound horrible enough, the truth is GFtT has cut too close to the bone, too many times.  Not to mention I hate when people write about me without at least consulting or attempting to address their grievances with me in person.  It seems passive- aggressive, which I can’t stand.  My horrible point is I only write about folks and situations that are resolutely in the rearview–or I write to put them there.  I can’t live with vague and unresolved.  It feels hopeless and futile.  I need to bury my dead and it’s a huge mistake simply because all of the people I’ve buried in print are still alive!  I don’t think I’ll remedy this dark flaw of mine, at least not in writing anyway, and as abyssmal as all this undoubtedly sounds, I don’t like writing about my life because it makes me feel like a hack.

We knew the dangers of this medium from the get, ain’t it though, but they didn’t feel like dangers at the time.  I achieved a goal of mine to be a columnist, by exploiting my own flaws and offering my own foibles.  And it was incredibly satisfying.  The blog that started me posting every Thursday was written out of sexual frustration.  I was tired of playing ring around the rosey and I said so, in writing.  Don’t you know a woman I’d been courting up until that point called me repeatedly.  She was upset about it, the blog, wanted to talk about it.  We talked.  I told her it wasn’t about her and that our conversation would be the last time I ever explained my writing to her.  We made amends and made plans.  A week later she stood me up.  Now I had over 600 words up on here, I didn’t take that blog down–why should I, especially after she stood me up?  Which is no consolation.  I’d of rather gotten laid, which was the point of the thing to begin with, and I’m a writer so the blog stayed.  I’ve never taken anything down in over 7-years of writing for GFtT–but my point is when people get more upset about the truth being printed than the truth itself then I feel like I’m onto something and they probably deserve it anyway.  All this might justify doing what I do but it doesn’t mean I’m not a hack.  Which was ok, too–I figured at least I was writing.  I didn’t mind (much) until now.

Social media is killing me.  Better, depression is killing me and social media is one of its best weapons.  There are other things I’ve been abusing.  Flagrant misuses of my power and magic are well documented and are all rooted in fear anyway.  I don’t want to be a hack anymore and I don’t want to waste any more time on social media.  My own weaknesses sway any discussion about it.  A democratized media?  Nope, just creepin’.  A way to stay connected to others when I’m at rope’s end on an isolation jag? Nope just looking at selfies.  Staying in the loop?  Maybe.  The list can go on and on but none of these reasons are why I’m on there—scrolling as the sun comes up and scrolling as the sun goes down.  It’s making me perverted—well, it’s feeding my perversions.  So, I’m striking out.  I’ve got some resolutions for the new year.  You Bet.  One of the biggest is to get current on my website and post from there.  The other is to take to the territory.  If this is mid-life I am ashamed.  When I’m done being ashamed I’m almost excited.  After my excitement has been checked by my depression I am resolved.  I’ve miles to go before I sleep.  I’m thinking, long and hard, on how I can offer the road I’m on, this new media and me and my life and Art—as a service to you, Good Reader and the waiting world.  I know from your feedback that I’ve already done this for some of you, so I know all is not lost.

The world stopped ending in Boyd’s town at a very special wedding last month.  It got cold and I feel alright.  I’ve got so much work to do, especially if I don’t want next week’s post to be about bad blood or masturbation.

See you in the territory motherfucker.

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More Confessions of a Jerkoff

In Being A Writer, Being An Artist, Buddhism, depression, employment, Jim Trainer, mental health, self-help, Writing, writing about writing, WRITING PROCESS on November 9, 2017 at 7:51 am

Crude admissions ahead. I could say the same every week ain’t it though. Every week I’m under the gun and deadlines advance the killing hand. I’m also trying to wrangle some gnarly bad blues on here, and put down a rapacious anxiety–you know, I’m going for its throat, and so, I  don’t have the luxury of apology or explanation. Nor should there be any, in Art. FOR MADMEN ONLY, like the sign says, and if there’s ever a place to dispense with pretension, get to the point and lay it on the fucking line, it is in the Arts. You should never waste anyone’s time. It’s on par with murder when you consider that all that our lives are is time. You take my time, you take my life and if you attempt either I’ll weed you out motherfucker. Go ahead and try me but I’ve got readers around the world and we’ll find you and X you out! Forgive me, got a little carried away there. Happy Tuesday and all such happy horseshit. I’m a working man and I’ve got to get these words down today and not on my usual Thursday because this Thursday I’m heading back into the building and working a 15-hour day filling orders. It ought to pad things out a little–make it less do or die while I’m delivering corporate lunches and running into the night with whatever fits into my blue hotbag.

Delivery ain’t a bad gig, the money’s horrible but I’ve no coworkers. Trust me, no matter what kind of shitshuck or haul you’re pulling–it’s the crew you’re running with that’ll make or break you. I was the foreman of black and Puerto Rican men from North Philly almost twice my age, filling dumpsters with pitch at the end of the American Century, and as ball busting as that was, it’s heaps better than standing around the kitchen of the Chase Center and missing every single pop culture reference my university going coworker choads futilely threw at me. I was just digging out an old house a couple weeks ago in North Philly, and painting for Christ, which I abhor, but it was with my Brother Tau, someone I share a deep connection with. We did what we had to and then we went home. We laughed a lot but our chemistry was instantly thrown off every time a homeowner or boss chimed in. You’re only as good as the company you keep ain’t it though. Well, I am my People.  My people are the blood that flows through me.  My people are diamonds in the dark.  Point is–wait a second here, what happened to my point?

Ah…my point was that without a deadline, without having to write this and nail it to the fucking wall by day’s end, I’m free to roam and ramble, as it were, get lost in Hostile City reverie and take shots at the squares and all too conveniently forget my warning, forget I was about to admit to crude and unsavory things. Far be it from me to back down in writing, although I will settle and euphemize. Ha. Not a chance. What I began this post warning you about was admitting that my upper arms are sore from jerking off. I’m only embarrassed for the women in my family reading this–if you are, I apologize, but, I’m shooting pool fat man.  Maybe I’m lonely. Definitely horny.  Certainly a misanthrope.  It’s probably painfully obvious that a horny misanthrope masturbates. Ain’t it though. Perhaps finding another misanthrope to spend time with could figure the problem out. I know plenty of women of like mind. A startingly high percentage of misanthropes are only exhausted empaths. People who feel too much tend to shy themselves of the parade. Anyone who’s ever felt the world this way should do wise and spend some time in the great Alone. Solitude is the ally, just ask Uncle Hank, but isolation is the killer.  Feeling isolated around them, ain’t it though, it can be twice-fucked when you realize it kills your time (and your life!) and your needs aren’t getting met so it’s also burning your emotional bandwidth. This can lead to exhaustion and depression and is why I can, with a straight face, look you in the eye and tell you–I strive to have compassion for all things living and otherwise, but most people are horrible.

The problem isn’t sex, or lack thereof, or too much arm crippling masturbation.  The problem isn’t being alone, or, at times, being painfully isolated. The problem with me is the problem with you, Brothers&Sisters–and the problem with us all is this blog. I’ve too much time, as crazy as that sounds. Sitting here writing for no reason, with no deadline is a particular kind of madness. I can’t move my arms and neck at the same time while typing this. I hear sirens out in the city and my neighbor is hosing down the side of his aluminum shed. The feeds of outrage are growing on the social networks…WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING NOW…until  things are back to normal and the world can go back to ending without so much as a peep of complaint. It’s totally asinine, fundamentally futile and completely insane to sit here, 883 words in, in my underwear writing about masturbation and day labor. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Don Bajema’s Hero

In American History, Being A Writer, Being An Artist, Don Bajema, Football, War, Writing, writing about writing, youth on November 7, 2017 at 8:39 am

The following interview first appeared in Philadelphia Stories in 2013.

Great writing has heart.  It really is that simple, although it’s not easy.   Former world class athlete Don Bajema presents a baby boom generation that is wide-eyed and innocent.  His self-styled anti-hero Eddie Burnett is taken to the horrible edge of things-but Bajema stops there, allowing the reader to bear witness and Burnett to make up his own mind.  Winged Shoes and a Shield (released last fall through City Lights Booksellers) follows the track and field star-cum-dropout’s trajectory through diaphanous rites of adulthood, dysfunctional family life, drug and spousal abuse and the terrible reality of American racism-all under the specter of the draft for the Vietnam war. Bajema’s take on the dire nature of our National character during sunrise in America is crushing, but there is always a choice offered in his work.  His hero strives to remain beautifully awake. Don Bajema’s hero has heart.

I’m struck by the innocence of some of your character (s) and point(s) of view.  Their attitudes and perceptions seem to be from a more innocent time, almost like the adolescent idealism that was somehow forgotten in the generations following baby boomers, after what I would call “Sunrise in America”.  
I think I’ve done all I can to deliberately retain innocence and an adolescent idealism in my life and work. Trauma fixes personalities in time and place and from ages thirteen to twenty I saw that generation I write about, a perspective I will forever view the world from…as the Kennedys were murdered, King, X, I saw riots, burned cities, dogs set on kids, National Guardsmen open up on peaceful protesters, I watched our military annihilate hundreds of thousands in a country of farming peasants, commit massacres of villages and napalm children running naked in dirt roads. Then I was told Vietnam was our tragedy, and I watched my generation buy that lie, while I refused to believe it and became ‘unpatriotic’-an epithet I cherish since I am not a patriot. We saw cops billy clubbing hundreds of kids, watched the FBI pull Civil Rights workers out of swampy dams, saw churches bombed. We had grown up in duck and cover drills but saw nothing to alleviate this stupidity and arrogance, wastefulness and corruption in our society. My perspectives are at once innocent and outraged.
I’ve felt sorry for the existence and fate of every generation that followed mine knowing full well that I, and my generation, have failed miserably to realize the glimpse of what it could have been.

What do you think is a fundamental difference between the once-hopeful flower power movement of the 60s and subsequent generations?  Are things more or less dire now? 
I think these are the best of times and the worst of times. I think the 60’s are perceived in error as the ‘flower power’ era. Nobody bought that flower in your hair shit. That’s Wall Street advertising and appropriation. The Beatles were laughing behind ‘all you need is love’. We fought in the streets. Our rebellion was an affront to the police and dangerous as hell in most of the country. These times are worse in that we are at the beginning of ecological collapse, deprivation and constant foreign and domestic war in battlefields from Sandy Hook to the Middle East and back again.

Your perspectives, “at once innocent and outraged”, are very similar to Eddie Burnett’s.
I’m better at busting a lie than telling the truth. I don’t think we can know the truth. The world and our existence is chaos. We do all we can to delude ourselves, personally and through agreed upon delusions like government and the economy, to go forward in an overcrowded and unmanageable zoo. A zoo that is our over populated planet and a circus in which we observe it. Is there hope? Yes, if we just face the fact we are highly complex primates conscious of our own mortality and freaked out by it. We do not have a god, we are not created in superman’s image, science cannot save us and most of our beliefs are ridiculous, especially any ones even remotely religious. But we are a very, very young species and we grow exponentially in intelligence if not in emotional compassion.
Eddie and I in respect to these qualities? Yes, I think they are inseparable. So, the short answer is yes.
The choice to remain “innocent” despite the horror and atrocities of the world, to choose good or to champion the inherent good within our human nature is quite insane, considering what is going on in the world around us.  
It does run contrary to the ‘fight or flight’ concept to champion…that which generates, protects, or provides for love and life…to be kind, to be generous, to be willing to extend these qualities first, in any given situation, is to be regarded or open to suspicion that one is weak, or a sucker.
I used to tell athletes enjoying their newly discovered power, and this is also true ethically and spiritually, that ‘strength gives the option to be kind’ but nobody ever knew wha I was talking about.
It’s our values-as much as one neurosis or another. People want it simplified, and it’s the singular ego that holds sway over their thoughts and actions, especially in a competitive context. Yes, nature appears to be competitive but it’s really a kind of dance. Self interest is important but it shouldn’t be paramount in our psyche. Nice guys finish last and “the meek shall inherit the earth” but to be meek is to be despised. For me, its war or not war, and my choice is not war. Which doesn’t mean if you invade my home with bad intentions I won’t go for it, but-and I have been in various potentially disastrous circumstances, given the chance I’ll opt for kindness every time.
The whole question of any individual and the world is a tale of heroic struggle, and I think a lot about Faulkner’s comment “the only story worth telling is the story of the human heart in conflict with itself”.

The inside look into Eddie Burnett in Winged Shoes and a Shield reveals the troubles of a seemingly well-adjusted athlete, at least you would think he’s well adjusted, a star on the track and field, an operator like his dad, but then you find out his back story, and all is not as rosy as it appears.
Jim you are 100 percent right…Eddie Burnett’s and my own challenges are derived and contorted by being at once too sensitive and too afraid to admit it. Burnett is a winner, celebrated for his athleticism. He is victorious and stoic on the outside but, within, he is both too sensitive and too scared to admit it.

In Too Skinny, Too Small, your latest work, we find an adult, if not grown up, Eddie Burnett as a mega football star in a bloated and self-important NFL.


Too Skinny Too Small was a disappointment as an experiment. I found myself too nauseated by the values of the corporate game and industry of the sport, and the ignorance and appalling lack of compassion and voyeuristic jack-off of the fans, commentators and just about every disgusting value the game has to offer that I bummed out hard on the topic. But I’ll keep writing it to a conclusion. I overwrite when I am unclear of what I want to convey. Basically, I’m predicting the inevitable–on field, nationally televised death that will occur fairly soon.
Too Skinny Too Small is going to make reappearance during the play-offs.
I enjoy writing on Going For The Throat and I like the idea of people being able to read it off of a blog.  I’m not sure where it’s going to go but I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens.

What can you tell us about your writing process? What does a day of writing look like for you? You once said to me, “Never try to please your audience”.


Carmen and I both work and we have two young kids, so I write when I can. Frequently late at night or early in the morning. I used to write listening to music, but lately I haven’t been and find that I write better without it.  
Music, for me, even if I’m only barely aware of it, takes some of what would be in the writing away.
Almost everything in Winged Shoes And a Shield …was written to be read on stage and most of the stories in it were written the day of a show. I found that it gave the work an immediacy. Almost everything in the collection is a ‘one take’ kind of thing, with very little or no re-writing. Rewriting, for me, is a bad thing. I tend to over write, not so much in terms of flowery, self indulgent stuff, but when I re-write I frequently find myself adding a lot of material so that the work is ‘new’ to me. But then it may not necessarily have the impact of the original words first set down on the page. So, for the time being I’ve been convinced, and most of my friends and collaborators almost insist, that I should never rewrite my work. I think my best material comes from writing that is done on the day of a show.
The idea of ‘pleasing your audience’ means that you are writing to an effect rather than just sort of channeling whatever it is that is coming out of you. That does not mean do not be aware of your audience. A writer should be considerate as all hell of the audience-but not necessarily doing anything to please them. What that means is don’t make them work too hard, don’t make them wade through a lot of stuff. So, my best writing addresses the audience as though they were in a club or wherever it is I’m reading. But I never try to please them. I don’t even try to please myself. I just write it and then read it and let the chips fall where they may.
I also read what I’ve written out loud, this reveals the clunkers in the work and I can change them on the spot. So it might be a page and then read it out loud, then go on.

What’s next for you and Eddie Burnett?

Eddie will stare me down as less than the man I was born to be and I’ll try to provide him the words…since he is the universal observer he’ll be around or in anything I ever write.
I’m looking forward to my reading with you on December 11th.

Too Skinny, Too Small by Don Bajema appears serially on Going For The Throat throughout the 2014 NFL Season. To read more visit jimtrainer.wordpress.org.

FOR MADMEN ONLY

In Being A Poet, Being A Writer, Being An Artist, day job, mental health, Performance, publishing poetry, self-publishing, Spoken Word, Writing, writing about writing on November 2, 2017 at 4:35 pm

There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside of them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself.
-Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf

Up until 30 minutes ago you had no idea what I did for a living and now you know more than me? Great. I should just quit and write poetry.
-theoriginal_jem on Instagram this week

The trouble with these people is that their cities have never been bombed and their mothers have never been told to shut up.
-Charles Bukowski

Sometimes I write just to keep from falling.  It’s been the luckiest goddamn thing, the writing.  The other, well, we all have our row to hoe, don’t we Sister?  Some of us toe the line, we fit in to their scheme nicely, or we want to and our days are orderly, it all makes sense or it will someday.  The rest of us run slipshod, in turns raw with fear and bold with alacrity, pioneers of lost and lonely kingdoms, we answer to none and don’t tell anyone.  As treacherous as it gets it’s still safer than living in their world.  I don’t know what kind of voodoo’s been run down on me but–I burn out now on crazy, faster than ever before.  The IG quote above is from an unfortunate interaction on social media this week.  I spoke on corporate culture, which I gladly know nothing of, and should’ve just kept my mouth shut.  On the other hand I wouldn’t have known this person to be so self-identified with it–square life.  I can’t speak to it.  I can’t recommend the road I took.  I’m not proud of it, it still confuses me–but I’ll never suffer anyone’s shame of it.  Out of necessity, really.  Believe me, I’m plenty enough ashamed on my own, that I couldn’t make it, do the thing and participate.  I just happen to be more ashamed of them and their life–the squares.  Which obviously, and again out of necessity, is a perfect intro for this week’s post.

I’m terrified.  I struck out again, left my gig of 5 years.  Couldn’t hang there anymore.  It was the longest job I ever had–which isn’t to say I’m irresponsible.  I could never stick around long enough to let time get on me, which is what happens.  Familiarity can be a pecking away, unless it’s from people who you love but even then sometimes you’ve got to get away.  I never met a more concentrated group of horrible people than I did at my last gig and living where I did, but I never stayed anywhere longer than a couple years either.  The problem is the Fear.  I’m suffering good Reader.  My karma’s wearing me down.  I can’t do it, out here, without some soulsucking handjive day paying jerkaround.  Know what I’m saying?  It’s fucked and I feel fucked.  Terrible depths of despair until I take to the outdoors and the sun and the trees of Hyde Park take me like a familiar but distant planet.  I can let go a little, on my walkabouts here, and forget for a spell that the future looks as fucked to me as the past and I don’t know how I’ll ever get this rig unwound.

I got some side hustles.  Little time sucks for gas and food money.  I’m not starving to death.  I’m booking ’em, too.  December’s shaping up and 15 $100 gigs still seems doable, on paper anyway.  I’m interviewing for another caregiving position tomorrow, I got irons in the fire for everything from moving furniture to hauling trash.  Everything’s fine and I’m terrified.  I regret my decision and pretty much every other one I’ve had to make since I first stepped foot to this savage road over twenty years ago.  I don’t think I’ll make it most days.  The wisdom, I guess, is I never thought I would but yet here I am.  It’s been heavy, man, and harrowing.  Second to second sometimes.  It does add up, though, I’ve got a body of work.  Three books in and my stuff is getting better and better.  Storytelling is second nature to me now.  It only takes a draft or 2 before I can take it to the boards and tell it under the hot lights.  Writing is still one of the only failsafe things that will save me.  Refuge.  Most days feel like falling until I’m beat by night’s billyclub, and then pulled off to dream silly dreams in some thick veldt between lust and madness.   I think I’ll make it, after all, even if it never feels like it.  She wouldn’t last a day.

See you in the territory motherfucker.

 

 

Betting On The Muse

In alcoholism, anger, anxiety, art, Austin, austin music scene, Being A Poet, Being A Writer, Being An Artist, blogging, blues, day job, depression, employment, getting old, getting sober, mental health, mid life, middle age, Performance, Philadelphia, Poetry, published poet, publishing, publishing poetry, punk rock, recovery, self-help, self-publishing, singer songwriter, singer-songwriter, sober, sobriety, songwriting, Spoken Word, straight edge, Writing, writing about writing, WRITING PROCESS on September 21, 2017 at 4:40 pm

I quit my job of 5 years and worked my last shift Tuesday night.  When I got this gig I was scared straight.  My Unemployment Compensation had run out and I’d been overpaid.  I owed (owe) $1,645 to the state.  I was doing promotions work and hospice care.  Shit went from blue to black.  On the other hand, the months of extended leave from shift work and days of liquid gambol gave my writing some swagger.  It was out front and walking around.  My poetry, always bold, gained confidence.  My prose, too-from weeks of forcing myself to sit here and post, and sending out long and angry letters to the world.  What I found, driving drunk and falling through the Night Kitchen, was the vast and rolling fields of my psyche.  By devoting to the muse above all she gave me continuous inspiration.  She still does and will.  All’s I’ve got to give her is time.

There’s been talk of going straight, parlaying the longest work history I’ve ever had into a note, or loan, and get a condo while I can.  Luckily I have a friend who told me that ain’t me, and she was right.  Riding around town today, down South Congress and Nathan Hamilton came on shuffle…sooner or later, we all hit the wall.  I haven’t been in a good mood in way too fucking long.  Driving down South Congress Avenue in the warm sun, with the rockabilly skyline giving rise is often what my good mood looks like.  I won’t say I fell in love with Austin again, because the Austin I fell in love with is gone (Bro), but I let it all go and just took her for what she is–a cool town in the middle of nowhere.  Some of the best roots music is still being written and performed down here.  There are still sawdust joints like the Continental Club and the White Horse that remind me why I came.  I pulled in on a heartbroke blue morning in May of 2009.  That night I played Evangeline Cafe and I been runnin’ and gunnin’ ever since.  I got tripped up here, though, at the mansion–I needed a home and gainful employment never existed in my world.  It was always cash and carry, flying my jolly roger to the next hitch, room and situation.  Not much has changed but everything’s different now.

I got my certification to teach Yoga.  I put out 3 collections of poetry and prose (and wrapping work on my 4th).  I’m taking to the territory, with only vague leads on employment.  I’m not worried, maybe I should be, but what I know beyond a doubt is 2 years ago I realized it was too late for me.  Too late to become who I always wanted to be.  That I never rose to the occasion and fear got the best of me.  I was being kept–by my Boss, this house and my situation.  I was 40 and next thing I knew I was 42.  I had to get out.  There’s a whole lot of other shit I could say, to slag and distance myself from where I worked and where I was at for the last 5 fucking years of my life.  I’ve somehow confused my life with the last 5 years, and hanging on by a thread when I  look back, thinking–how could I have blown it so bad?

I still get excited about the creation of Art.  I’m still writing songs that I must live up to, and can still prophesy and actualize with rock and roll on a Martin DR-S1.  Poetry’s as necessary to me as self esteem.  If I don’t squeeze one out every week or so, the bolts tighten in my mind and the world starts slanting down and there’s too much confusion and I can’t tell love from the blower man on the landscaping crew, and everybody’s high and no one cares, and everyone thinks we should go to War, and punk rockers die young at the age of 56, which is, I mean–it gets bad and poetry is necessary then.  Which is far from ideal.  Necessary.

Necessary sounds like those old scrapping days, playing it safe with no love or gamble.  Necessary sounds like 50-hour weeks moving safes and pianos for $7.50/hr.  Necessary is every job I’ve ever had, all the way back to 1987 when I was a 12-year old dishwasher at Martinichio’s Restaurant and delivered the Philadelphia Inquirer.  A lot of things are necessary.  I’ve removed most of them from my life.  The creation of Art was thee necessary salve and in a lot of ways it still is–but there’s a bottom I won’t go to anymore.  It’s very safe and sad.  I’m not sure if I’ll need those blues or that abyss.  I’m 42.  I write poetry and I play music.  Performing is one of the only places I feel completely me.  Those hot lights are a prism.  They burn doubt out of you and send out the good word of love.  They let the people know.  Survival isn’t celebrated enough.  Then again, at almost 3 years sober, I don’t know how to celebrate anything anymore.  I’m sure I’ll be floating a broom and glowering over some this is fucked wisdom again before too long, but–maybe not.  Good reader maybe not.  With no prospects and no real direction I know I’ve got to go this way.  Take to the territory.  It just feels right, and I’m gonna go with that.  Time to GTFO.

See you in the territory motherfucker.

 

 

Take to the Territory

In alcoholism, anxiety, art, austin music scene, beat writer, Being A Poet, Being A Writer, Being An Artist, Charles Bukowski, day job, getting old, getting sober, Jim Trainer, mental health, mid life, middle age, Poetry, poetry submission, published poet, publishing, publishing poetry, self-help, self-publishing, singer songwriter, singer-songwriter, sober, sobriety, solitude, Spoken Word, straight edge, Submitting, submitting poetry, suicide, the muse, TYPEWRITERS, working class, Writing, writing about writing, WRITING PROCESS on September 14, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Since I started so late, I owe it to myself to continue.
Charles Bukowski’s letter to John Martin

After fourteen years delivering and sorting the U.S. Mail, and at the age of 50 Henry Charles Bukowski began his first novel. John Martin (Black Sparrow Press) saw something in “Hank”, and offered him $100 a month to quit the Post Office and write full time.  Hank started writing at the same exact time every day.  It wasn’t an arbitrary time, but when he would’ve had to clock in to the Post Office–every day for over a decade working a job that was killing him. He finished the aptly titled Post Office in a month.

For many tragic and dull reasons, I don’t have any clear signposts in my life.  No one took me under their wing and no one showed me the way. My Father wasn’t exactly a company man, which I admired, but he worked all the time, which I didn’t.  My relationship with my elders was often toxic–I loathed what they’d become, or they were Christian, and I abhorred my hometown.  I’ve no real world examples of how to live. I got some heroes, though, 3 to be exact.  Of course Hank is one of them, the holy ghost of the trinity.  Bukowski showed me the way.

Life happens to you.  It’ll rattle you senseless.  I don’t consider myself a great writer, but I’m happy with my work.  I’m happy to work, above all, and that simplifies things.  All people like me need is rent and a desk.  We don’t seek more from life.  We whittle our needs down.  We need less and less and therefore have to work less and less hours at the job–until we don’t need anything.  With a lack of social climb and without the flash of material wealth, the world will leave you be.  We work the bare minimum at shit jobs that take the least from us.  We’re not paid to think or feel or consider someone else’s dollar anywhere in the simple hierarchy of walls, food and art.  It’s that simple, and beautiful, if impossible to explain to virtually anybody else.

What’s the sin in being poor?  Chinaski asks in Post Office, when it’s clear all the county can do for his alcoholic girlfriend is let her die.  Being poor can be devastating.  For years I lived one gas bill or dental procedure from total poverty, but it wasn’t that bad.  I probably could’ve called home if it really hit the fan, but–young and dumb and for years, the bar of sustainable catastrophe was constantly raised.  I’ve had months in rooms 5×10 wide.  I’ve lived without a phone or bathroom.  I’ve lived in places that would make family and friends from back home blanch–for $150 a month in an unbeknownst health hazard.  I lowered my rent every year for 5 years living in Philly, only ponying up to $500/month for a huge 1br on Buckingham Place because I came in to some money when my Father died–Life Insurance he had promptly paid all those years working.  God bless him.  After that place I got back to lowering my rent, and did so every year until I finally left Philly (and paying $135 a month for a room at 10th&McKean) for good on New Year’s  Eve 07.

My next move is counter to the artist’s imperative to live way below my means.  Moving across town, taking a roommate and paying $850ABP/month isn’t the same as being an artist full time.  But what the fuck is?  The rent’s steep, if Austin affordable, but it’s a sublet and I’m not locked in to the criminal contract you have to sign to get an apartment in Texas.  I’m quitting my job of the last 5 years with no parlay, as of today I’ve nothing imminent, other than almost through applying for Uber and Instacart.  I’ve some gigs booked, starting tomorrow, which isn’t nothing.  My roster might not be robust but a couple to three hundred dollars is nothing to sneeze at while unemployed, even if all that can be sapped with one phone bill and a car insurance payment.  It could be worse.  It could always be worse.  I could be banging 50 signs into the hard ground on the median of William Cannon for $50.

That was one of my first jobs in Austin, before I resigned to be a writer.  The search for a day gig became a full time enterprise.  I would sometimes work around the clock, get off graveyard and sleep until the afternoon when I’d head out for a promotions or catering gig.  Nothing was guaranteed.  I had to take everything that came my way because of course the money was shit and none of it was steady.  Which was ridiculous, and not what I’d come over 1,600 miles for.  It drove me to drink and write.

The shit hit the fan for this country in the financial crisis of 08, and by the time I came down in May of 09, competition was steeper than it should’ve been for the shit jobs I was applying for. It felt like a whole other level, especially considering I hadn’t worked in almost a year living with Laura.  Looking back, 2-3 months really isn’t that long to be looking for a job and shit eventually turned.  My 7.50/hr job filling book orders at the University COOP parlayed into a full time position at their warehouse on Real&Alexander.  From there I got hired on at the Whip In, and when they laid me off I lived off unemployment compensation for a year after that–until I landed this gig.  Five fucking years later and I’m heading back out into the America.    This morning I started writing this at 8, which is when I’d have to get the old man out of bed.  Something in me knows that as much as I hate the grind, I’ve got to love the real work that much more.  Sleeping in is bullshit.  Perks and the good life.  I’m up against it now, the anxiety is dizzying and I’m immobilized with dread.  I got up anyway, sat down here and got started like I’ve done thousands of times before, 497 times at Going For The Throat alone.  I sat down and got to work.  Like Hank.  What else?

The Medium Is My Message

In Activism, art, Being A Writer, Being An Artist, blogging, blues, Buddhism, Charles Bukowski, depression, Fugazi, getting old, getting sober, going for the throat, Henry Rollins, Jim McShea, mental health, mid life, middle age, Music, new journalism, news media, Poetry, published poet, publishing poetry, punk rock, RADIO, recovery, self-help, self-publishing, singer songwriter, singer-songwriter, sober, sobriety, solitude, songwriting, Spoken Word, straight edge, suicide, working class, Writing, writing about writing, WRITING PROCESS on August 24, 2017 at 1:11 pm

Proud and excited to announce this week’s post is featured on Medium!  Please go there and show me some applause (icon of hands clapping at the bottom of, or just beside, the piece).  Feel free to leave a comment, too, so they know we have arrived.

Thanks motherfucker!

 

More New Century Blues

In Activism, activism, alcoholism, anger, ANTI-WAR, anxiety, art, Austin, austin music scene, Being A Poet, Being A Writer, Being An Artist, day job, death, depression, Don Bajema, employment, getting sober, Jim Trainer, journalism, media, mental health, mid life, middle age, music performance, new journalism, Philadelphia, Poetry, publishing, punk rock, RADIO, recovery, revolution, self-help, self-publishing, singer songwriter, singer-songwriter, sober, sobriety, solitude, songwriting, Spoken Word, straight edge, submitting poetry, suicide, the muse, therapy, TYPEWRITERS, working class, WRITER'S BLOCK, Writing, writing about writing, WRITING PROCESS, yoga, youth on August 17, 2017 at 1:02 pm

It’s been a while but I am at a loss.  The world may have gotten in more than it usually does but I haven’t been without inspiration since the early days at Going For The Throat.  Those days the crisis was real.  If I didn’t make it as a writer I’d be stuck behind a bar or working hospice for 9 an hour.  Dressed like a Hershey’s Kiss on campus or test driving the Golfquick LE in Sugarland.  My definition of “making it as a writer” is broad and wild.  I can sit down and come up with 600 words out of thin air, and by keeping it simultaneously all too and not personal at all, the thing will find its legs and walk its way into you.  The archetypes are free to roam.  The fact that I’ve become a character in my own story, coupled with a 10-ton outrage and Black Irish honesty has made Going For the Throat a success.  My definition of success, too, is unorthodox-but if anything is true about my 20+ year career trekking down the savage road of New Journalism, it’s that the medium is the message.  That means that I’ve got my transmitter, just like in my Radio Days, and I can feel you out there listening.  I’m a writer so I write.  I still got a day gig, one that’s winding down, and I’m not 100 on what’s in store.  I’m booking overtime-I hope to play every night and write every day.  That’s been my dream and charge for as long as I can remember.  “Writer’s Block” is less than a memory for me, but waking up today, fully clothed, in a dead confederate palace with all the curtains pulled back-is taking me back to when I knew I had to be a writer, and tried to do every day what I now do every week.  Back then it was 1,200 and pure agony.   I volleyed the imminent avalanche of self-hatred that would fall if I didn’t become a writer with the agony of coming up with 1,200 words every day.  There was beer involved.  And cigarettes you bet.  It worked but it drove me out of my mind.

I’m just as fond of those hardbitten scoop days for what happened away from the desk.  Hopping fences, getting shitty.  Falling through the Night Kitchen, driving down dark barrio streets with my tongue in Gwendolyn’s teeth.  My hangovers were grim back then, nothing compared to what was coming.  It was beginning to get old but I saw no other way to assuage both the loneliness of writing and my utter dread of never becoming a writer-as the money ran out.  I caught some breaks.  I got a good job.  I met Rich Okewole and Najla Assaf.  I found my community.  I was taken in by the good folks at the IPRC in Portland (and taken right back out by Trump’s America but that’s another story for another time).  Perhaps my hesitation to pull the trigger this morning is indicative of the end of those Salad Days as a struggling writer.  The gravy train has left the station.  Of all my myriad blues and woe, movement seems to be the answer.  As proud as I am of what I’ve become, I’m terrifed here at the midway.  Possibilities that ain’t been realized won’t be and I could die at any time.

It’s got me shook.  I quit my gig of 5 years, should be out October 1.  I bought a car.  I enrolled in this year’s SWRFA and sent 22 booking emails out into the Live Music Capital of the World, even canvassed West 6th.  Survivors Wisdom tells me it’s time to grind it out, hit the road and stop being such a pussy.  Maybe the truth is that struggle is over.  Not this one, but that one.  The battle with self can conclude.  It’s I and I and a good night’s sleep contending for top place on my list of priorities.  I’ve found myself.  I am who I am.  Cruel time has showed me who I am and branded me with the wisdom that there’s not enough time to change that now.

We both know there would never be enough time but that didn’t stop us before ain’t it though.  We rebelled.  We clanged against the deathhead, came for the Gods and offered them the head of the King.  We bled for it, we had something to prove.  It was useless, futile and fatal and the biggest waste of time.  We squandered our youth.  The youth is gone.  It’s time to get off social media and take to the territory.  Our lives are depending on it.  I got witchy women mixing up the medicine for me and an Ayurvedic scholar laying out a diet plan.  I got Brother Don on the telephone and Sister Sarah at the other end of a computer screen.  I’ve got friends like blood, holding vigil and corroborating and besides all this big love-a fear of death that is all too real.  The prime motivator.  The best time to hit it was a long time ago.  The next best time is now.

I better see you on the streets motherfucker.

Charlie Gordon’s Blues

In alcoholism, anger, anxiety, Being A Poet, Being A Writer, Being An Artist, blogging, blues, Buddhism, mental health, mid life, middle age, new journalism, Poetry, police brutality, punk rock, recovery, self-help, sober, sobriety, straight edge, suicide, Writing, writing about writing on August 10, 2017 at 9:07 am

Oh, the work I could get done if my heart weren’t so full of hate.
David Sedaris

I know this is not Church, but get close to the Lord.  The world is getting close to the end.
Little Richard


If it could happen then — in 1980 — then it can happen now.
Scott Crawford

We love your voice.

Rebecca Loebe

I’ve been clean and sober for over 2 years, but you’d never know it looking at my apartment.  It looks like I been riding with the King, drinking with Papa and partying with Guns ‘N Roses.  My kitchen doubles as a place to type, much like Bukowski and Hunter Thompson’s did-but don’t ask.  Boxes full of Farewell to Armor and Anthology Philly (WragsInk), September and All in the wind (Yellow Lark Press) are underneath the War Room table.  The black nest of power cords, USBs and chargers beside it ain’t pretty either, and it’s a fire hazard besides.  Topo Chico bottles and La Croix empties christen the floor like cities and the bedroom at the back of the mansion is sinking in a cyclone of fitted sheets and pillows.  The bathroom is gross and there are piles of clothes everywhere.  “Dude clean” is apt and I’d do well to get a maid-but then I’d have to pre-clean, like Doc does, and her visits would be another deadline for me to stroke out over.  I have no excuse and no one to blame.   It’s a fucking mess in here.

The last 4 days on shift were an epic and colossal laziness, a laziness I needed to recover from, which is why I’m sitting here at 3 in the afternoon sipping cold coffee in my sleeping cargos, writing.  The world is out there and at large.  But I couldn’t get to sleep until after 2 last night, when I finally pulled earbuds from the phone and left Uncle Hank and Mike Patton mid-show.  We’re not even halfway through the summer and I feel fine.  The new lease starts 8/15 and I’ve got a flurry of shit to get cracking on, none of which I started, or even attempted to, since we last spoke.  As per usual, I sat down to write this with the intention to bag my bad blues, let you know what’s bothering me and get right to it.  Besides being beholden to a deadline, and despite all appearances of transparency at GFtT, there’s a lot of shit I’m loathe and even ashamed to admit.  Mostly it’s how I haven’t done much with my time, that I’m depressed and stuck winding down the end days as an indentured servant.  I’ve squandered precious time, that for the last couple years I only sensed running out, winding down, acutely and terrifyingly-fuck.

My other blunders, faults and peccadilloes-I’ve been writing them down, just haven’t posted them here.  They’re in a file called FVK Daily, a draft of a blog post like this one except it goes on and on, listing and enumerating all my dirties and lust, all the venom and corruption that haunts me daily.  Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing, or the imperative of Natural Selection to never be satisfied-but I feel like I can do it, get it all out and fix what’s wrong with me simply by writing it down, posting it or etching it in ink on the lined pages of a store bought yellow bound pocket spiral I call LIGHTNING/RENDERING.  It’s a tradition that dates back to 1992.  I’d buy a notebook at CVS, its color informing me and setting the tone for our time together-me and my Friend the Journal, who would be with me, help me to manifest, worship and smash my idols, and self-actualize.  It’s the power of writing, good Reader, and poetry.  It’ll never fail to get you out of a jam-that is, your head, and help you to fetishize your pain and cast your journey with pomp and grandiosity.  It’s how we mythologize, and how we make ourselves heroes, how we hang it on the fucking wall, find and take from a sense of place, which in turn gives us a sense of ourselves-our shape and color, our small graces and thunderous foibles, our smokes and charms, our roaring and our lightning, the drums of the arena calling for your head in the black and endless rain.

I don’t have any answers this week.  I don’t have any answers most weeks, and I’m loathe to wrap this in a cute or poignant way.  It’s the end of the world.  Thank you for reading.

 

 

More News From Nowhere

In alcoholism, anger, anxiety, art, Austin, austin music scene, Being A Poet, Being A Writer, Being An Artist, blogging, blues, Buddhism, buddhist, day job, depression, employment, getting old, getting sober, journalism, media, mental health, mid life, middle age, Music, music journalism, music performance, new journalism, news media, on tour, Performance, Philadelphia, Poetry, poetry reading, punk rock, recovery, self-help, self-publishing, singer songwriter, singer-songwriter, sober, sobriety, solitude, songwriting, Spoken Word, straight edge, suicide, TOUR, travel, travel writing, working class, Writing, writing about writing, WRITING PROCESS on August 3, 2017 at 2:14 pm

…it all just seems so sensationalized.
Aziz Ansari

I know ppl like u think it’s “cool” to theorize about quantum fluctuations, but the heat death of the early universe isn’t something to romanticize.
Frances Bean Cobain

…I say hey Janet
you are the one, you are the sun
and I’m your dutiful planet…
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

This Guns N’ Roses weekend is over.
-Your Writer on Tour with Ironwhore, July 2005

Waking up with a hardon is the best thing to happen to me in years.  Never mind I quit smoking, drinking and the Life, that I’ve published three collections of poetry and prose and survived as a working singer songwriter for the last 5 years, or that we just wrapped 4,484 miles pulling in to Hippie Town at 9pm last night.  Waking up erect is good news from the Gods, like we’re gonna win this thing.  Know what I mean, good Reader?  As we were leaving Austin 19 days ago, it dawned on me that I probably have arthritis, if not in my left middle finger, then certiainly on my right thumb.  Anyone reading this blog on the regular knows I haven’t caught my breath in over a year-and there are other, less savory conditions and maladies that’ve fell on me in these paling years, not the least of which being a lack of libido.  I let it all slide, rather than jump through the bureaucratic hoops of health insurance that only led nowhere-but decreased interest in sex was, at the time, viewed as an improvement.  Sex seemed to always land me in trouble somehow, and, by and large the partners I had were colossal wastes and the biggest drains of my time, on my health and my career as a day worker, writer and performer.

The truth is I’ve let a lot of things go.  I’ve insulated myself from the world with this gig.  I’ve maintained at minimum, and pushed harder when I needed to, but when I look back at the last 5 years and think about the fact that I’m 42, I’m terrified and disgusted-the former boring through nights pocked and shot through with anxiety, and the latter beating the opposite sex to the punch.  I couldn’t fuck and I didn’t want to.  It’s called depression, and low self esteem, which can intermingle in a vicious cycle that the worst people will blame you for, but actual compassion for, even if welcomed, can veer too close to commiseration and in any event is a shit substitute for understanding.  The silver lining is the coffee’s done, it’s time to wake up, this gig is over in less than 2 months and, like the Buddhists say-the best time to start was last year, the next best time is right now.  Lest we forget, I taught myself how to write these last 5 years, and the dream of being a columnist has been realized, thanks in no small part to you and your wonderful Readership.  I’ve got a 2009 Monk’s Robe Orange Honda Element and a Tacoma Guild.  I live in a post-gentrified Paradise and every dumb ailment and malady I’ve mentioned can be treated by swallowing a pill-ok, I still need to look into why I can’t catch my breath, it’s true, and wish me luck as I enter their world and try to get the help I need.

This blog has always been the balloon to my wet cement blues.  I talk myself down from the noose here, and you read me and it’s perfect.  Healing myself with my own medicine bag, sitting down to type and hang it on the fucking wall, feeling supported and, most of all, seen by you is terribly important to me-a rudder in the shitswells of a dark and calmitous world, the biggest boon and best thing to happen to me in years besides waking up with a hardon this morning.  Oh yeah, that.  It seems like the weeks get away from me.  I mean, sure, I work full time, and I just spent 18 days on the road with my Boss, but time gets away from me-that is, the time to address the many peccadilloes and tragic breakdown I’ve been skirting since I turned 40.  I feel like I should address it, tacitly, get up on it like Ahab, and chronicle the savage journey I’ve undergone since deciding to stop being depressed (I am NOT saying that this decision cured my depression AT ALL).  Brother Bean has asked for it, in the past, and I feel like I’d do well to bring it back for you-hip you to the saga of a working class ex-Pat punkrocking rockabilly New journalist with a a whole lot of time on his hands, a new car and a rekindled libido.  I’ll still try, good Reader.  You bet.  But I’ve got to wrap this.  I still believe in my dreams and I feel like I’ve got something to live up to, until the next time we meet, so I should get cracking.

May your crown be a halo.  See you next Thursday motherfucker.