Max is helping me make a new webpage and it feels diffuse and wrong (to say nothing of totally self-indulgent in this time when America is dying, but then again it was probably dying before, but not as spectacularly) and I’m pretty sure this webpage will soon redirect to andrewleland.org and the only people seeing this ¶ will be RSS subscribers to goodjobbbbbbbbb: the online journal of SUCCESS, so if you subscribe to this blog in RSS you need to know that this blog is going dark and its dark goings on will continue “apace” at the aptly titled andrewleland.org, so if you’re one of the few people who enjoy the broth of the mind, who sip and sup from that elderly trough, then ma’am or sir or transmam or sirmom you’ll please now follow me back through the untrammeled deglazed glade of pre-Drumpf hoarfrost to andrewleland.org, back where the ceramic pavingstones etc etc etc etc etc etc
update: it costs money to have the site automatically redirect, apparently, so this post will stand like a tombstone until something actually dies
LINDA: Yeah, I’m having fun researching it. The fake
DOCTOR: Hang on that’s the second time you’ve said “fake.” I think it’s become a tic. What do you really mean? Instead of fake, think of a more genuine, a more authentic
LINDA: [Seething] Why say both genuine andauthentic? Is there a difference between the two that requires you to use both words?
DOCTOR: [With dignity and reserve] I merely used both words for emphasis.
LINDA: I’m sorry. My worst enemy had a baby last night. I just got the email announcement.
DOCTOR: It’s OK. I know you’re going through a lot.
LINDA: You mean my eyes.
DOCTOR: Yeah. Do you want to talk about your eyes?
LINDA: OK. They’re fucked.
DOCTOR: Ha. How are they fucked?
LINDA: I was taking Acetazolamide
DOCTOR: —a generic of Diamox, a standard diuretic used for glaucoma patients —
LINDA: —and also commonly prescribed for cystoid macular edema, which I have.
DOCTOR: A swelling in the retina. Which is itself a common complication of retinitis pigmentosa (RP).
LINDA: Yup. The RP is the main event — that’s the degenerative retinal condition that’s inexorably eating my vision from the outside in
DOCTOR: At your diagnosis, at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, when you were a teenager, I asked if you could see stars. You said no, and I knew it was RP.
LINDA: You asked if I could see stars in the night sky. It felt a little creepy. That you knew I couldn’t see stars. like you’d asked me, “Do you have a fantasy of being reborn as Frank Whaley’s character in Career Opportunities (1991), locked in an after-hours Target, rollerskating and making out with Jennifer Connolly for eternity?”
And I was like…”uh, yeah. No, I can’t see stars.”
DOCTOR: RP often first gets diagnosed in teenagers as night blindness.
LINDA: That movie (and, let’s be real, Jennifer Connelly) made a strong impression on me when I first saw it. I was probably 11.
DOCTOR: What made you think you had RP?
LINDA: It must have been… I don’t know. 2000, 2001. People were already Googling their ailments by then. Or, I guess, Yahoo!ing their ailments.
DOCTOR: Webcrawling across their pain.
LINDA: Ha. That phrase
DOCTOR: I just thought of it! I love riffing with you!
LINDA: Ha. That phrase reminds me of Chris Burden’s TV Ad, where it says “through the night softly.” he bought a TV spot on national television
DOCTOR: He’s the performance artist famous for the piece where he crucified himself to a Volkswagen.
LINDA: Right so he bought a TV spot on national TV where it shows him crawling through glass with his hands tied behind his back and then it says throughthe nightsoftly
All this talk of my night blindness, kind of reminds me of this Chris Burden piece.
DOCTOR: Was it that painful?
LINDA: not at all. I mean that’s the thing unless you count walking into things (which hurts) or feeling sad or worrying you’ve passed it on to your son
DOCTOR: RP is genetically marked in some people but many with the condition have no record of it in their bloodline
LINDA: But it’s not painful. The Burden connection is more about the way I went through the world at night, and now the way I increasingly do during the day. Softly, at pains. But also something about the way that Burden has uhhh burdened himself with this difficulty himself. he’s not being tortured — he’s going through the night softly for an artistic reason.
DOCTOR: Cut that pun but my question is why do you think of the blindness as self-imposed?
LINDA: More that i have to perform it, that blindness becomes a sort of performance art. The cane really creates that feeling: when I unfold my cane, with a flourish, the social situation is transformed so fast it’s like Chris Burden just walked into a room and started doing one of his pieces. Of course I’m exaggerating
DOCTOR: At the time of your diagnosis you still drove a car
LINDA: I still drove back then — even at night! Kind of unbelievable to me now. At first it was really only noticeable when I was likerunning through the woods with my drug-friends after dark
DOCTOR: But over the years…
LINDA: It’s gradually degenerated. Anyway I was living in NYC for a year recently
DOCTOR: You were in that one-woman show on Broadway.
DOCTOR: That got great reviews, didn’t it?
LINDA: Uh, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer. Yeah, we did well.
DOCTOR: What was it about?
LINDA: I adapted Dwight MacDonald’s Against the American Grain and sort of did a mashup with that and “The Star-Spangled Banner”
DOCTOR: “Amber waves of grain”
LINDA: Right and there was also a thread about brainwaves
DOCTOR: “grain waves”
LINDA: Yep and one of the characters was the lovable fascist Walter Starkie whose autobiography was called The Waveless Plain
DOCTOR: I thought it was a one-woman show. “Characters”?
LINDA: And I performed the whole thing in a Lieder style inspired by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau who Roland Barthes writes about in “The Grain of the Voice,” his wonderful essay on the linguistics of sound.
Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings are played at loud volume at various times throughout the piece
DOCTOR: Wait didn’t you say it was a one-woman show?
LINDA: It took a lot out of me. Also Terry Eagleton has a book of essays called Against the Grain and he’s a character in it and so is an eagle that my mom made out of felt and I did the whole thing buried up to my waist in raw barley
DOCTOR: But so you said you stopped taking the Diamox?
LINDA: The Acetazolamide.
LINDA: Well I was taking it because I had the swelling in my macula and that was fucking with my central vision
DOCTOR: you also have cataracts
LINDA: which are super treatable but I don’t want to fuck with surgery until it’s absolutely necessary because my vision is like a little scrap of parchment that I have been carrying with me through the wilderness
DOCTOR: the wilderness of, say, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
LINDA: Sure. Or maybe a YA adventure book à la Hatchet
LINDA: And I think of someone with otherwise healthy eyes getting cataract surgery they’re worried but also if something goes wrong there’s a lot more…uh… parchment left over for them even in a worst-case scenario
DOCTOR: Whereas you have just this tattered soft decaying square that you’ve worried over and sweated through and pissed on and so on through the King Lear style Tempests
LINDA: seriously, the literary references here are a bit much what is going on
DOCTOR: I dunno just feeling my oats
LINDA: right so I’m understandably wary of laying my precious little square of fabric out on the operating table. so when I’m living in NYC i finally decide to go see a retinal specialist which i haven’t been to for years because I figured what’s the point there is no treatment for RP
DOCTOR: At least not for someone with as much vision as you have left but recent developments such as the Argus 2, an artificial retina
LINDA: Right sure but I’m a few years out from needing one of those and it just recently became commercially available and anyway the specialist on Gramercy Park looked at my eyes and was like jesus I don’t know how you get around — i had folded up my cane when i arrived so he didn’t know i used one? — and told me I was legally blind and could collect disability and then said the good news is you have this swelling which we can treat with Diamox. So I’ve been on that for a year or so and the only side effect I noticed was that it makes beer and most carbonated beverages taste bad
DOCTOR: which is a shame because you love craft beer!
LINDA: yeah, woe is me. but then i started having tinnitus. which for a person who’s gradually but inexorably going blind tinnitus is really fucking scary. because I was just imagining myself once i’d lost all my vision, sitting there in the dark with my family nearby reading books that i’d only know the titles of if I asked them and not being able to quite make out what they’re saying because of the painfully loud ringing in my ears
LINDA: and then one day i was re-googling my ailments and remembered that tinnitus is a listed side-effect of the drug
LINDA: so I stopped taking it right away and then really quickly and dramatically my vision went to shit. like a new level of shit. it took about a week off the acetazolamide, and suddenly reading got really hard. as did moving around, even familiar places. chances of knocking over my son went up by 40 percent. asking if anybody had seen the thing sitting on the table in front of me became a daily thing.
LINDA: so anyway i found an alternative treatment which i’m trying but i’ve only been on it like 2 weeks and I’m not sure if it’s working yet or not
(It’s 4:52 p.m.) I have the feeling of panicky middle of the night why can’t I get back to sleep insomnia even though it’s working (and not sleeping) that I should be doing and seemingly cannot do. I blame: Facebook. Facebook is a Crisco-covered pig always ready to run; you just open the gate and it tears out squealing and skronking and it’s at least 45 minutes until it’s back in the pen again. Another persistent feeling I have is that sitting in this chair clicking on you guys over and over again is fine as long as I’m quiet, but the moment I open up this WordPress text editor (Barbara, this just refers to the thing I use to write blogs [who is Barbara?] [She’s my fictional grandmother; all of my nonfictional grandmothers died before I was born;] [my wife has an email subscription to this blog so that even though posts aren’t technically “letters written to her,” in effect they all are, because I post them and then maybe six to twenty seconds later I hear the chime that indicates she’s got new mail (cf, Barbara, the Nora Ephron [not related to Zzac Efron — who is Zac Efron? I just Googled him, he’s something called High School Musical; I’m pretending not to know what that is, and that I didn’t notice the initially accidental second z in his name] (I realize you realize this is an absurd number of nested brackets [which is fun to write because “brackets” is the word the English use to refer to our “parentheses,” so I can maybe elegantly or pseudo-economically refer to both the brackets AND the braces (the English word for brackets) in one simultaneously ambiguous and unambiguous word] and I am simultaneously proud and embarrassed to admit that by about line twenty of all this I pasted us out of the WordPress text editor (Barbara) and into TextMate, a piece of software designed for writing code (HTML; PHP; C++; what have you) I optimistically purchased earlier this year when I was more unemployed than I am now that has the useful-to-programmers feature of making it easy to see which left-facing bracket goes with which right-facing one. So when you type a parenthesis, TextMate automatically (“automagically,” my CS TA said last semester about some dumb feature of Visual Basic, the language we used to learn the basics of Computer Science) prints two facing parens or brackets (it does the same thing with single quotation marks [and all this bracket/parenthesis/brace alternation makes me think of the way the English invert our nested quotation mark conventions, starting with the single quote and then nesting a double within that and then if you’re going double-nested reverting back to a single (to say nothing of which side of the law their commas fall on)] (I imagine if I ever did find myself in an MFA program this is the sort of “piece” that would lose me friends and create long and hateful afternoons of people deriding and condescending and deploring me in a workshop, when really all I want to do is post this on my blog for my own sake, jazzing around having fun, high fives cool see you later, knowing that my wife will have a nicely formatted version emailed to her for her to read at her leisure only if she wants as a hopefully diverting distraction while she’s on a break from William James or Facebook or some fresh piece of health-care legislation), and sets your cursor in between the two, and if you run your cursor over one bracket it highlights its spouse, sort of the typographical equivalent of the device on many contemporary car keys that makes your car chirp when you’ve lost it in a garage) (though since I have such poor peripheral vision it can be tough to find the tiny flashing brace in this sea of type, and sometimes I can’t tell if running my cursor back and forth over a brace doesn’t result in a spousal highlight because its flashing counterpart is in one of my eyes’ degenerating “dead zones” or because I messed up and it’s a stray bracket whose spouse has been deleted (or it never had a spouse to begin with; it, like you, unmarried reader, was typed into this world as a horrible extra, a soul without a mate, cursed to wander the internet reading the self-satisfied blogs of happily married gradually blinkered midwestern acid casualties until you die, happily, well-sexed and alone, in your loft apartment surrounded by paperbacks), enclosing nothing, adding an unnecessary and syntactically confusing (though to be honest how could things get more syntactically confusing than this, which almost immediately abandoned any attempt at readerly syntactical amnesty) layer of padding, like a package wrapped with an excessive amount of tape and very irritating to open (right about here the student in my MFA workshop, in reference to the “email to my wife” line, might say, with a tea-tree-oil toothpick turning to pulp in her mouth, “I mean, is this how you treat your wife? She likes getting this sort of email from you?” and I try too strenuously (it’s no longer 4:52, we’re now post-dinner and I’ve had a beer, I no longer care about getting work done or the perils of Facebook [though I’m still happy to be here; I’m settling in]) to explain that I’m writing this for me, not for our professor or my wife but it doesn’t matter) [even with the aid of TextMate I’ve now totally lost track of the nests, and can’t bring myself to untangle this right now… Maybe I will start a Kickstarter campaign to hire a freelance copyeditor to iron this out for me, or perhaps announce a reader-contest where I send my almost entirely unread hardcover copy of Steven Moore’s 2010 alternative history of the novel (Continuum) to the third person to offer their professional services to make the syntax of this blog post perfect])) writing it down on the internet brings my thoughts into the realm of “politics,” because, I don’t know. Maybe it only makes me nervous about angry strangers reading this, and my nervousness comes from insecurity, and I’m insecure about “politics.” The ensuing paranoid fantasy usually manifests itself as this text appearing on the screen of some politically “active” sad young literary type who has recently Occupied something and then zestily coupled with another politically active and attractive young person, even though in my experience this sort of person despite their “fearsome” (to me, a Jewish American princess who tries hard to leverage compassion and thoughtful engagement into his life but constantly fails, as I imagine the zesty couplers succeed) political intelligence and engagement still tends to harbor tastes and pleasures that are totally unpolitical. Like what? Like food that’s more delicious than it needs to be (truffle oil), or jokes that don’t strike a fatal blow to the ruling elite, or literature that doesn’t do — and doesn’t try to do — same. Smoking pot, getting drunk? Indie rock. And so saying anything about my aimless click-diverted workless afternoon of privilege and leisure “reifies” (Barbara, meaning it makes real, into an object) the spoiled fermenty gas that is my consciousness and creates a permanent (though many these days argue that the internet and the servers it lives on is impermanence reified, that “digital” is synonymous with “virtual” with “evanescent,” though our [my] experience of it is that something I write on a piece of paper gets seen by no one, not even my deeply beautiful wife in the other room, or if I publish a poem (“How many / little dickless / little sparrows / swallow cocks, / swallowcocks // May I scat for u”) in Pleuperfections, a well-respected university press’s literary journal, then NO ONE WILL SEE IT, whereas this is at least going to end up in my wife’s inbox (which is of course what most Facebook activity is, messages ostensibly sent to one person that are really messages sent to everyone [which is more or less what all writing is, unless you’re really writing something private, under the kind of shadowy dangerous exigent privacy that only politics or illicit sex can create]), and will at least be read by Max Tabackman Fenton, who is my internet guru, who I hope by posting his full name here I’m ensuring that he’ll read this, since I imagine him to be the sort of person who Googles himself at least once a year (or more likely has a Google Alert for himself, or has subscribed to this blog in one of the many ingenious ways he has devised for keeping abreast of everything at once), (which is not to say he’s egotistical, because he’s not, only that he’s savvy) maybe right around the end of the year, which is tomorrow, and so might see this then.) object.
I went to college from 1999-2003, where I lived, ate, breathed, and smoked college radio (WOBC-FM) all day every day. Then, with a year left, I dropped out to move to CA to work for a magazine. I worked there for the next eight years. Then I fell in love with a beautiful woman and she got a job in town, so I decided to follow her here and finish my B.A. To my intense delight and surprise, this makes me eligible for a show on [yr station]. When I dropped out of college, I cryogenically froze my radio show and now, eight years later, [cue music bed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_tVZFZ5PR4] my beloved show is going into the industrial microwave on MEDIUM for 6-8 minutes and dragging itself through the halls of the academy once again!
My show (TITLE TK: “WEIRD OLD GUY?”) will be freeform radio at its finest, pushing into the red w/r/t innovation and FUN. Fun must never be sacrificed to innovation. And vice versa.
Music is the bedrock of the show, and I plan to make the most of [yr station]’s rock library, in addition to my extensive personal vinyl/CD/MPEG collection. The best rock — from oddities, novelties, classics, forgotten b-sides, to brand-new singles and previews of bands coming through town. But sprinkled throughout the music will be the true jewels of the show, the multiple talk-based segments. Possibilities include:
• “Walking the Line”
Each week, a different writer (from creative writing profs, to visiting poets, to MU poetry/fiction PhDs and even undergrads) brings in one line — a line of their own poetry, or their favorite poet’s, or a sentence from a novel, or from a piece of journalism, anything — just has to be one line of “literature” for us to discuss.
(Each of these segments will have its own musical intro. Maybe Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines” for this first one? Or Johnny Cash, sure)
• “Comics Digest”
A weekly verbal recap of what happened this week in the comics page of the Missourian
ex: “It’s been a tough week for Lois of ‘Hi & Lois’; she’s been home with the measles and her little brother won’t leave her alone!” etc etc
• “Vibin’ with the City Council”
Each week I get a Columbia city councilperson on the phone (pre-recorded, most likely; I have a ZOOM H4N I can produce several of these segs in advance, but I’ll always cue and introduce them live) and ask: what’s the vibe of the city council like this week?
• deranged/brief Self-interviews; fake interviews with pre-recorded interlocutors
• I might try a recurring feature about being a 30 year old dude taking computer science with freshman; I will probably rip lots of samples from my DVD of Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School for this (maybe rent Happy Madison, too…). Find other old undergrads and ask them about their lives, what it’s like here for them
• I have an MU football-related idea that I’ll only tell you if you give me a show with a legit timeslot
• Reviews (with field recordings) of frat party bands (!!!!!)
• as many opportunities for live call-in segments as possible (TBD)
• Guest singles (a guest — anyone from the dean of grad studies to that girl who works at Sparky’s brings in 5 singles and we play them and talk about them)
• tiny, hilarious 5-minute radio dramas
• even tinier, even more hilarious 2-minute radio dramas in foreign languages feat. students in various MU language departments
• Much, much more
• Seriously, so much more you have no idea
• And, as I mentioned above, all of these segs, some of which may happen every week, some once a month or so, will all be sprinkled like cherries and chopped nuts over the wide swath of whipped-creamy dark-chocolate sets of top-shelf weird/funky/great music. Wire, the Fall, Olivia Tremor Control, Pixies b-sides, Unrest, Big Dipper, Deerhoof, Beefheart, Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Sonic Youth, Truman the Tiger’s Drug-Hell Singers, Is That a Real Band?, That Would Be Amazing If So, Go Betweens, Soft Boys, Soft Machine, Soft Cell, Soft Bulletin, Don Cherry, Destroyer, Cluster, Tyvek, Essential Logic, Glasser, Wreckless Eric, Nick Lowe, Sparks, Magazine, Melvins, Cardigans, Acrylics, Pterodactl, Fela Kuti, R. Stevie Moore, et al!!!!
Please let me know if you have any questions. I love you.
I wish your daughter could read your poetry. But with titles like “Neighborly Cum,” you’ve presumably guaranteed that she won’t be allowed, either by yourself or her tutors. And when she does find your work, chances are, she’ll be disturbed forever. I have to ask: Why do you all but ensure that at some point in her life, your daughter will be disturbed?
I’m not the one ensuring that she’ll be disturbed. Old Barry Life-Truths is the one who makes sure of that. If it’s not “Neighborly Cum,” it’s Return to Oz (1985, Walter Murch, dir.) at a friend’s house—or any number of other horrors one can’t slide through life without being forcibly pressed up against them for longish periods of time.
But why add to the horror by writing a poem like “Neighborly Cum”?
I’m not making myself understood. I’m not adding to the horror. This is like asking why I’m adding to the flood by dipping my bucket into the angry, swollen creek and reserving that water for tonight’s broths, sipped in misery among the bloated, flood-ravaged corpses of our friends. The water is there, whether it’s in the creek with the dead catfish or if it’s in my tureen—with the dead catfish. [Smiles, awkwardly adjusts his pants, smiles again, grabs a full fistful of the wasabi peas on the table between them. He has small hands.] I’m not inventing the water, and I’m not conjuring it. I’m carrying it.
But you could leave it in the creek. You don’t need to fetch it. Let it pass on.
You describe the water as something in transit — just passing through our encampment, on its way to nobler fates — a job at a university, maybe, or a self-employment that manages to fuse social justice with a “hip” cultural engagement? Or just broader diffusion into the ocean, for example. Sure. But as it rushes west, the water is also quite a static thing. The creek is there—sometimes swollen, sometimes “normal,” now and then quite meager—but it’s there year-round. Just like your arms, or your thighs—sometimes swollen, sometimes meager, always present. [Derrick, looking away from the interviewer’s thighs, thinks about them.]
Your work often mentions self-loathing, and something you call “fake self-loathing.” Do you really hate yourself?
Well, yes, I do, but this isn’t really why I use those words. I think of self-loathing as an artistic tool, a raw material — it’s a particular brand and color of paint that I buy in quantity, and use in my compositions. This doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a subject of mine, no more than you could accuse a painter of using “brown” or “blue” as her subject.
[Originally published in Fake Paris Review, Issue 2, Spring 1994]
AG: …and have been published or are forthcoming in ROAPE, Mouthwagon, and Came-Tree.
AL: So you’re a freelance writer? Is that how you pay the bills?
AG: Periodicals publish my writing, yes, but I’m not a freelancer. I’m a writer.
AL: Fine, right. OK. But how do you make money?
AG: I don’t, really. I’ve been living off my savings. Raising my son.
AL: That sounds nice…
AG: It is. I started a pomegranate orchard in my yard.
AL: So money’s not a problem?
AG: Not right now, anyway. I might start volunteering with this political pain intellectual suffering charity thing soon
AL: But that’s volunteer, so they won’t be paying you?
AG: Right. I guess that won’t make any money. But it’ll take time, so the day won’t be quite so empty…
AL: Lots of people don’t have that luxury. They have these awesome sprawling narratives inside them, but they have to work to pay the
AG: Yeah, I know, I realize that it’s a luxury not to have to work and to get to write about fictional people all day. What’s your point?
AL: I guess… I just want you to know… that I wish some of those people… the writers who have to waste their days answering customer service emails, while you grow pomegranates and write stupid poems about pomegranates that are published in
AG: …periodicals including Roiphe’s Bones, College Radio Fiction, AGNI…
AL: … I wish those people who have no choice but to struggle and waste their time on unsatisfying labor could have even a few minutes with you in a dark room with a whiffle-ball bat, making you feel extremely uncomfortable. It wouldn’t take much. That’d be justice, by my lights
AG: Damn your lights. I may not need to answer customer service emails all day but when I write my poems, some of which have explicitly taken up as their subject the suffering of the customer service representative, I am forced to experience the pain and the boredom and the angst and everything that the CSR feels. So being a writer isn’t any better than being a CSR, at least as long as you’re writing about the great struggles of modernity — the struggle of the Customer Service Representative — which I am. Which I hope I am. Maybe I should write about horny teens in paradise. It might be more fun…
AL: Can I have another one of those…
AG: They’re called “Flynt Martinis.” Help yourself.