I’m off to see The Grateful Dead this weekend in Chicago. Although tickets for the Fare Thee Well concerts were too expensive and The Dead’s marketing branch is selling 70-CD box sets for $700, the music remains the thing.
Santa Clara, CA – June 27: performs on Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years Of Grateful Dead at Levi Stadium on June 27, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
I was so wound up during my workout today – listening to The Dead – that I went through a series of adrenaline rushes, each one almost ending in tears, until I finally started to settle down after an hour and then had to do another hour to get my energy out. I saw my first Grateful Dead concert in Hampton, Virginia on March 9, 1983 and went on to follow the band over 12 years, seeing 48 concerts in such places as Lake Placid, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Boulder, Providence, Eugene, San Francisco, Miami and, yes, Chicago. Known for a wide range of rock genres, The Grateful Dead will likely play much of their Americana at Saturday’s July 4th concert, including covers such as Me and My Uncle (John Phillips), Big River (Johnny Cash), El Paso (Marty Robbins), Me and Bobby McGee (Kris Kristoferson) and I Know Your Rider (traditional) as well as their own true America standards Jack Straw, Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, and US Blues. Damn it, I’m getting worked up again.I need to breathe.
When something feels complex or complicated to you, write it out carefully and thoughtfully, several times if necessary, until it flows smoothly and expresses exactly what you want to communicate and nothing else. Inspiration will never, never happen if you don’t work hard at it and don’t consider the act of writing as very nearly the most important thing in your life, right up there next to breath and food and shelter and love.
Readers of this blog may have noticed an odd confluence of reflections on Raymond Carver as well as various citations from the television show The Bachelor. It is possible, Carver wrote, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things – a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring – with immense startling power. It is possible, he continued, to write a line of seemingly innocuous dialogue and have it send a chill along the reader’s spine.
Like Carver wrote about commonplace things with commonplace language, The Bachelor presents commonplace sexual relationship with the same innocuous, albeit redundant, zeal. This is not to imply that the producers of The Bachelor do any of this knowingly – or indeed with any craft – but that the participants, like Carver’s lost and lonely characters, surrender themselves to the process, seemingly unaware of how stupid and damned their lives must be.
“What I am is very deep. I came here for love.”
“I came here expecting to meet the girl who had her heart broken, not the girl who wanted to get her field plowed. I wonder if you’re that shallow.”
“My blood is boiling a little right now.” “I am super offended by you. I’ve appreciated your deep side.”
“I don’t belong here.” “I’m being punished for being an intellectual. You have to have original thoughts. I feel like I’m destined to be the bachelor. Oh man, I’m needing to have some sex.”
“He called me shallow.” Kaitlyn took Nick on her next date.“The way he pulls me in, the way he kisses me, the way we are…Nick just makes me feel like a woman, a desired woman.”
They went into the bedroom, away from the cameras, and Kaitlyn moaned deeply many times and then, after a commercial break, stood in the morning light. “I don’t necessarily feel guilty about the act. It’s more just guilt from caring about other relationships that I have. And I’ve never done this before. I’ve never dated so many guys and had to feel this guilt.”
Beyond the expected demands of not being a criminal, politician or married, The Bachelor requires contestants to sign a document which includes the following:
Rule #6: Applicants must never have had a restraining order entered against them… involving moral turpitude or violence, as defined by the Producer in its sole discretion. Rule #8. Each applicant…agrees that the Producer may disclose any information…about the applicant’s private life (including) confidences and secrets with family and friends.
Rule #9: Each applicant agrees to be recorded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…by means of open and hidden cameras, whether or not he or she is aware and that such recordings may be disseminated on all media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the Universe in perpetuity. Rule #10. Applicants agree that revelations of personal Information and recordings may be embarrassing, unfavorable, humiliating, and/or derogatory and/or may portray him or her in a false light.
In other words, the producers of The Bachelor are free to cast judgement, steal secrets, and lie about anyone on their show for as long as they wish…which begs the question: Is only an ‘x’ required on the signature line?
And now comes John Barleycorn with the curse he lays upon the imaginative man who is lusty with life and desire to live. John Barleycorn will not let the dreamer dream, the liver live. God is bad, truth is a cheat, and life is a joke. From his calm-mad heights, with the certitude of a god, he beholds all life as evil. Wife, children, friends – in the clear white light of his logic, they are exposed as frauds and shams. He sees their frailty, their meagerness, their sordidness, their pitifulness. And he knows his one freedom: he may anticipate the day of his death – suicide, quick or slow, a sudden spill or a gradual oozing away through the years, is the price John Barleycorn exacts.
(From Jack London’s John Barleycorn: Alcoholic Memoirs)
“You can put anything into words, except your own life. It is this impossibility that condemns us to remain as our companions see and mirror us, those who claim to know me, those who call themselves my friends, and never allow me to change, and discredits every miracle (which I cannot put into words, the inexpressible, which I cannot prove) simply so they can say, ‘I know you.'” From Max Frisch’s I’m Not Stiller
Anton Chekov said, “Formerly, when I didn’t know that they read my tales and passed judgement on them, I wrote serenely, just the way I eat bilini; now I’m afraid when I write.” The fear is not only in craft but also content. My fear is of being attacked from behind, most strongly at a drinking fountain, my teeth smashed into the metal. What are my worst moments, my very worst – denying my mother, stealing, hateful, violence, vice upon vice – and what would these crimes look like together, my reel of pettiness and sin? And would any of these moments make a good story?
1. Dialogue should be a series of non-sequiturs because “human beings do not really respond to one another.”
2. Any passage that invites underlining must be cancelled.
3. Stories are written in other people’s voices, not the writer’s own.