Life on the Commuter Train

There is nothing like coming into the city on the train. It’s all here, inside and out, the buildings thick with cranes, the roads with trucks and plastic, the river wide and dark.

We have forgotten what we never had. We have looked back blind. We have let loose with a broken yarn. We are here, magnanimous and incompetent. Yes, yes, yes. Wait. That is the answer, that sound. It will come again. When we are gone.

The boy across from me eats salted cauliflower sticks, one by one, wiping his fingers on his drooping mask, intent on the next page of The Magician. He pokes his fingers inside again, licking off the last grains, crumples the bag, and holds the book up high, a better filter against the pandemic that anyone knew. The couple beside hold hands, the young man clinging, desperately asking her what she thinks through his tight mask. The girls at the front of the train explode hilariously, talking over one another in a spew, “I felt it touch my lips. That was it. I love weed. I was going to put it into the Pringles. I don’t remember a black bag. I will Venmo you right now. You look so good.”

I think of her, still think that we could make it work. I know it is not real, that she would wander away or lie or deny what she did and said, but still it is the idea of her, the magic of that streaming in, with her in a remarkable circumstance, sucking on her great left breast, marvelous in mass, supple and goose-pimpled, believing in everything, stuck in that, even when she laughs and her friend tells her to turn to the camera for the Tik Tok video.

And then it becomes something else, more wide, more clear, held, the way you might hold a piece of nothing like it was god or truth or love and really believe that. And so yeah, seven dollars for two shots and a mega-can of beer. Fuck me. That’s what it’s all about.

Writing Process: Convincing Readers to Love the Unlovable

Dee Sinclair is impossible. She doesn’t give a fuck about anything or anyone. Don’t get me wrong. I love Dee. She is the Cat’s Pajamas on steroids. For me. That’s probably because she is so much like me: opinionated, cantankerous, demanding, isolated and always right. Readers of The Cx Trilogy and My Bad Side don’t find these attributes compelling. She’s does not inspire empathy or engagement. She is not likeable. That’s what they say.

And so, I’ve been at work, cleaning up Dee’s rough spots, gutting her bitter pontifications, making her a little more approachable. And while I might be making headway, I’m struggling with it. Dee doesn’t want people in her head. She wants to be left the fuck alone. In other words, what makes her so lovely to me is what makes her an impossible bitch for everyone else. No one likes to be told to fuck off. I get that. And that’s the thing about Dee. She’s good with that. She wants it like that. Leave her the fuck alone.

As soon as I explain why – the tragedy of her mother and sister – she just gets more pissed off. Pity? Fuck, no. Empathy? Why the fuck would she want that? She’s got the genes, the chromosomes, the essential strands of life. Why would she want any of us to understand or care? We can all go fuck ourselves. Done and done. And that’s my problem. Not her problem, but mine.

In a Flight Delay

I realize that I am the same chunky fellow when I was a kid. The same. That’s what I am thinking about or more about not going anywhere, of staying, doing something else, just not what I’m doing, not this, because that is what’s expected of me.

There is someone at my shoulder. I don’t know here. I ask, “Who are you?” She says something about understanding. It goes on until I finally lose it, “I don’t want to know who you are or wake up next to you, right? I just want to say goodbye. That work?”

Intellectual Property

Whatever you do, whatever you attempt, if it works, somebody later will try to make it something else and pretend it is their own and profit by that.

It doesn’t matter what is real or what you know, there is always another to say, “No, you are a liar.” It’s only a question of how involved you want to become in that.

Writing Process: Opening It Up

The key to writing is finding the way into it. It isn’t a question of discipline – although it is – nor Hemingway’s leaving something for the next day – although it is. The route needs to be found. The thing has to open up.

Otherwise, it is just copy and you’re selling jeans with freedom catchphrases – not that I’m knocking it if they’re giving out the pay check. The access point can be as easy as remembering what an ass I was for doing something awful. Not to be obtuse.

The Mother of All Writing Advice

A story can’t be self on self. Avoid the Uber Voice. Seeing someone else through another’s eyes just might be the highest level of interiority.

Looking down a cold tunnel at a mother

Omniscient first person, that’s the thing. Whatever you decide, modern literary theory states that it’s all about what your mother says you didn’t write.

Writing Process: Knowing Something Clearly

I feel like I know something now, something with clarity. Or just not so lost. Might have even got somewhere. Probably not. But I feel like that.

I’ve never known who the hell I am, and now I’m thinking that I just might. I am a white male, and an older one at that. But that’s not it. I’m not even an asshole, like so many people have said. I know that’s just them being lost and new.

I have come to somewhere and I know something about that. It’s not much but it feels like it might be something. I just hope that I can sell and then get that Malibu estate, be surrounded by beautiful people and complain about the masses.

And how great it was getting to where I got.

Writing Process: The Almighty Opening

Every time that I open Anori – something I have done a couple of thousand times – and wait as the document slowly loads, my always eye fastens on the opening line. And it’s never what I want, which has led me to change it some fifty or sixty times.

Dee watched the police car turn down the empty street and vanish on the other side of the park.

The keys to this sentence are a. the police car, b. the viewpoint (from a penthouse apartment) and c. the winds of Hurricane Sandy.

Jostled by the winds, the police car vanished on the other side of the park, as Dee slid the balcony door closed.

And then I think it’s all too much and that I only need the bare bones: The police car vanished on the other side of the park. But, that doesn’t work. Neither does: Dee braced herself as the gusts of wind came up again.

I want to communicate an isolated and brooding tone in the opening, something like Dee stood alone watching the police car as it went from sight on the far side of the park. But not that either.