Brooks Carpenter's Blurty
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Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in Brooks Carpenter's Blurty:

    Tuesday, November 11th, 2003
    12:22 pm
    Yes, I’ve been away for a while: Fires in the hills, and fires in the heart—all of them running wild and out of control. Makes it damn hard to write, because the fires make it damn hard to hold onto a single thought, let alone put two or three thoughts in some coherent sequence. It’s also kinda hard to get on-line when the power and phones are out. Yes, I thank God that our home and farm still stand; and, while we evacuated, I understood the important things: The children and animals were safe—terrified, naturally, but safe.
    When the time came, I found it almost unnaturally easy to choose what I would save and what I could afford to lose; in its way, the challenge was a good, healthy thing, because it showed exactly what mattered. At crunch time, very little "stuff" matters. I took the laptop and the disk with all our important papers scanned into it; I took the zip disk that stores my novel. I took very few clothes—mostly the ones I would need for work; I forgot to rescue my old letterman jacket. I took all the photos and all the family’s artwork—lots of that; I did remember to rescue the two heirloom chairs. Family history remained pretty-much intact. Shows all anyone needs to know about what matters. Family. History and right now; kids and animals. And my tools—the carpentry tools, so that I can go on supporting the kids and animals; the computer so that I can go on pursuing that impossible dream.
    Going without power and phone for a few days really was a small price to pay. So many families have lost so much more, and more stories come out every day as people sift through the ashes of their lives and dreams. I guess the journalists and broadcasters have used-up just about all the words for the fires’ ravages; I don’t know if I really can add any more—not in this context anyway. My imaginations and insights will get woven-into the brush fires episode in Chapter One.
    But there’s still the stuff about fires in the heart. They’re contained but not controlled. And I wish they were the good kind—you know, like a warm, comforting snuggle-fire on a snowy night. But they’re not. These are not the fires of love and romance; instead, they’re the destructive, ravaging, overwhelming and terrifying kind that leave only scorched earth behind. The landscape of my spirit looks hellishly like the landscape along Highway 52, where everything burned-down to bare dirt. Not virgin wilderness, but just blackened and scarred earth.
    And, ya know what? I am sick and tired of bitching, moaning, lamenting, and brooding about it. Darkness and sadness do not suit me; neither does passivity. I also am sick of fake resolves and quick-fingered effusions that come from dancing the qwertyuiop across the stupid keyboard. I like some genuine, practical conviction, courage, and determination. Yeah, I walked around the farm, and I walked through the house, feeling completely overwhelmed and discouraged with all that must be done. I can imagine the challenge of rebuilding; but I can hold it in perspective, too. We can toss-up a building in about six weeks; some of these people will be choosing carpets and drapes in just about a month. Maintaining this silly acreage and all its structures are a lifetime enterprise, and we could keep busy around this place almost indefinitely—sunrise to sundown day after day after day. And, while the people choosing flooring and window treatments enjoy the thrill of recovery and renovation, we see eternal sameness; nothing new, nothing learned, nothing especially cherished…just simply maintained. Holding our own against time’s onslaught, but not really progressing. It’s the progressing that matters. If there’s nothing to which we can look forward, then why should we try? And if we don’t choose the stuff to which we will look forward, then why even bother? I just read a "Vanity Fair" profile of Ali McGraw, who commented "no choices," the complete absence of will and wish, dominate her vision of perfect misery. Amen to that! "Love Story" girl. Amen, Mrs. McQueen. Amen!

    Current Mood: discontent
    Current Music: rainy day jazz
    Wednesday, October 15th, 2003
    5:28 pm
    degree of difficulty...
    Hello, Blurty Buddies,
    I just read everyone’s most recent entries, and they kinda held me spellbound. What amazing xhracters I have discovered here—a host of people coping with all different kinds of issues and intrigues, and all of them brave and honest and forthcoming, just plain admirable. So, I’m gonna give-up pimpin’ mah bitches for an afternoon, and I’ll even put my religion on hold, so that I can explore the contents of my own life and heart.
    In my bio, I wrote something about it beiong a rich and full life. It’s full alright, but not exactly "rich"—not just because the Cubs lost when they were five outs away from clinching the pennant, draining the joy from almost everything; and not just because we never have any damn money no matter how much I make; but because I fill my days with satisfaction of other’s wishes and expectations. I do everything it takes to act and believe as a "good" man should, yet I can’t get me no satisfaction. No, for once in my life, I’m not talking abouyt sex—although that would be nice, too—but about that genuine "satisfaction" the psychologists describe when they discuss "the combination of liberated craftsmanship and the most exquisite sublimation." Well, ladies and gentlemen, this ol’ boy’s been sublimatin’ like a damn madman and crafting like the craftsman he is, and still I can’t get me no satisfaction. The demands keep coming too relentlessly; the joys keep eluding me.
    Some things I can accept: Yeah, the laundry piles into mountains, and I bulldoze them back into foothills; yeah, the dishes pile-up, and one meal begins just as soon as the one before it concludes—like Denny’s and 7-11, we’re always open; and, yeah, all the business of keeping this band of bohemians running should count as acts of love. Yeah, getting taken for granted should just be taken as a given; what did I really expect? I didn’t expect a bunch of heathens who have no idea of love all of a sudden to effuse all kinds of warm and tender feelings; still, an acknowledgement or a "thank you" might be nice. A "please" would go a light year toward relieving the oppression. A little back-up would help. Even the absence of those little courtesies might be okay if I had fair opportunity to see myself starring in my own life. I never-ever enjoy my own attention; I never get the spotlight in my own day. Where are the pockets of peace; where are the moments of sublimity; where are the ephemeral little ecstacies that ought to make it all worthwhile? I just ain’t seein’ ‘em folks.

    I picked-up a list of prompts from another journaling site, and it offered sentences for completion. One jumped out at me: "The hardest thing I ever did was…" Okay, I hate that it comes in a passive construction, but I agree the passive makes completing it a little easier. I loved the idea of considering all the difficult stuff I have attempted and the few difficult things I have accomplished. So, I took a stab at it…
    I have done a whole bunch of "hard" or difficult stuff in the course of my puny little life. I pushed and punished my little body until it could butterfuly through a simming pool almost as fast as Mark Spitz. I pushed and punished myself, so that I wouldn’t feel responsible for my mother’s alcoholism or my father’s homosexual escapades. Swimming proved a great distraction from the horrors of everyday life in our "perfect" suburban home; and what better way to appear "all American" than, in fact, to have a certificate that proclaims you’re all-American in something—like 100 yards butterfly.
    Then, just as difficult as surviving that "colorful" childhood, I escaped it. I worked my way through college and graduate school, flippin’ burgers and slingin’ hash, putting in way more hours than a regular little preppy oughta endure. I think most people would consider it "hard" to work fifty hours a week and still graduate college with straight A’s. I ain’t all that smart, but I got that pit-bull determination, and I have that all-American thing to honor. And, now, the astute observers will find the contradiction: He claimed that he escaped his childhood, but all that compulsive over-achieving makes it really clear that he carried it right along with him. Oh, yeah! The observers score big on that one. Yes, sir. Don, tell them what they’ve won…
    I built myself a respectable life in the suburbs, complete with wife, pets, vehicles, and all the amenities. More than 200 cable channels, thank you very much. Keeping all that stuff going seemed pretty "hard" at the time, because it required two or three jobs and two or three carpools and a whole shitload of starch in those botton-down shirts. Then, I changed careers, choosing a physically demanding and socially degrading path that really has altered me forever, making me way better than ever before. Giving-up professoring—making a living as a professional liar, and taking-up carpentry—earning a living by building good things. That was "hard"…and perfectly wonderful. The nails and boards don’t lie; they don’t negotiate. Sometimes, the wood forgives, and sometimes it submits; most of the time, however, it retains its natural resistance to man’s domination, and it requires skill, guile, and craft to transform it from forest to building. That’s hard. That’s satisfying.
    But it doesn’t keep a guy warm at night. It doesn’t console, cuddle, or seduce.
    So, after all this consideration, the answer finally jumps out in stunning relief: Among all the hard things I have endured and accomplished, living-through this gut-wrenching loneliness stands-out as "the one"—the kahuna of difficult, the sultan of tough. Oh, yeah, I have lots of people in my life, and I have lots of repsonsibilities for the people all around me. Yet my heart still feels frighteningly empty—like an old house when the people have moved-out, like the Joads’ house two weeks after they had hit the road. And I have to keep going and keep caring anyway.
    Yup, that’s the toughy supreme.

    Current Mood: pensive
    Current Music: native american flutes and drums
    Monday, October 13th, 2003
    3:19 pm
    pirate or pimp?
    I wish I had some exciting stuff to offer the Blurty world. I wish I had some drama, trauma, or scandal that I could serve-up fresh and raw. Not life threatening, you understand,. But just juicy—like a love triangle, or any old threesome. Like a stalker or a marauder or a pirate. Better still, like being a pirate. Start of the journal entry by writing, "Today, I quit my job, gave-up my professional writing, bid adios to the kids, and went-off to become a pirate. That’s right, a full-time raping, pillaging, and plundering pirate. I traded in my 501’s for some garish satin gear, and I traded in the old Ford Ranger for a nicely outfitted little frigate. Got a lotta miles on it, but with a fresh coat of black paint and some new flags, she’ll look just right. Dropped out of the PTA, and headed west on a freshening breeze, looking for booty and bootie."
    I love it. Pirate’s log, day one.
    Or similar situation but different gig: "Today, I gave-up everything I cherish, and I became a pimp. I went downtown and bought myself a six-pack of hootchies, outfitted ‘em in lycra and piercings, and put ‘em out to work. Ditched the Ranger for a big-ass, lowered and pimped-out ol’ Lincoln Con-tin-ent-tall; got them blingin’ electric wheels, and got me a boomin’ system. Slammin’! Few times each day, I check in wit’ nmy bitches, and they turn-over they bills, while I turn-overt what it they want. We got us a ‘rangement, y’all unnderstan’ what ah’m sayin’. Rest o’ the time, Ah’m hangin’ with mah homies in mah spots." Nopt onmly did I change professions, but I changed voices and dialects, too. Pretty cool, huh?
    If a pimp kept a journal, what would he write in it? Could it be used against him in court? What did ol’ Heidi Fleiss write in her journal or dayrunner? Isn’t quite as easy as it seems, I guess.
    I see a couple of practical complications, too: if I become full-time pirate or pimp, kids have now way to school, and the goat probably won’t get fed. Pirates don’t have regular paydays, so better go with pimpin’; that way I can get live-in help, and I won’t have to worry about the kids.
    This leaves me only one choice: I’ll have to start my own religion.
    More about that later.

    Current Mood: amused
    Thursday, October 9th, 2003
    8:54 pm
    doubt and speculation
    Hello, boys and girls, and welcome back once again to the World Series of Doubt. I have so much on my mind…and, of course, once again, I should be sleeping and trying to heal my aching body instead of writing and trying to justify my aching brain. What can I say? Just like a straight beats a full house, the spirit’s demands always prevail over the body’s. I know that I still will drag my cute little ass outta bed in the morning and haul it to work, where I will do good stuff with grace and skill, or not. At least, I know I’ll try my best. A troubled spirit, however, will bring troubled dreams. At least, it would if I could get to sleep. Under the full moon and in the last throes of Indian summer, however, this troubled spirit probably will keep me awake. They say sleep deprivation brings you mighty close to insanity no matter how stable and sane you are when you’re rested; they also say that the line between genius and madness gets harder and harder to mark. They say that bi-polar disorder may, in fact, be a special adaptation to the world and its demands, fitting the bi-polar character to the nature of hunting, exploration and discovery. The Delta forces in the Marines now look for guys with ADD and bi-polar disorder, because they work independently, hyperfocused for long period of time, marshalling all their resources and improvisation skills to solve the problems or master the situations with which they’re confronted. To lay awake, mind racing and spirit troubled, lying beneath the full moon in the last throes of Indian summer as California reinvents itself as a total and complete theme park and the Cubs play for the championship—well, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Instead, waking-up the cold morning after that big moonlit night—that’s the worst thing in the world. If I had some assurance that maybe I would discover something or bag some big game, maybe I could say it’s worth it. The hero’s game comes with no such assurances, though; and you know that, if they pay you in advance, it’s because they’re sure you’re gonna die and they want you to enjoy your last few days of liberty before you chain yourself to the task that invites you to defy death at every turn. Maybe, if this moon-flooded night offered some sort of Romantic challenge like that, I could say it’s worth it. But I have nothing that even comes close. Sure, a straight beats a full house, but I got only a pair…of deuces.
    And, ya know, I wrote all that stuff precisely because I had so much on my mind that I had absolutely nothing to say.
    I was thinking about Blondemuse’s rationale for continued life. If the "panic button" brought the answers and direction, we’d burn-out the circuits. On the one hand, I feel absolutely certain that God and Nature collude to show us, tell us, and teach us all we need to know in each of life’s critical moments; if we miss the messages, it’s because we have grown so disgustingly self-absorbed that we just didn’t know how to pay attention. Ask yourself a simple question: If you felt God’s wonderfully Fatherly hands upon your shoulders and his warm breath behind you; if you heard God’s consoling voice speaking to you and only you, and if all of it added-up to direction and encouragement, "Follow this path, because this is absolutely the way I want you to go," would you? Would you really? And, if you could, even against your instinct, let yourself act as God’s instrument, would you continue to acknowledge that the ideas and motivation came from God? Or would you eventually convince yourself and then set about convincing the world that, really, all of it came from you? If the machine to which the panic button connects spits-out one answer and the "canopy of the Word revealed" spit-out another, which would you trust? Would you take the mystic leap, trusting that Nature reveals God’s intention in all Her motions and machinations; or would you trust the linear, binary logic of the machine, because it requires nothing but logic and sequencing? Mystic defies right and wrong; rational carries all the weight and freight of right and wrong all through it and all around it. Which one would you trust? Of course, you wanna say that you have faith, but experience has subverted your faith, right? How many leaps of faith have landed you, kersplaty, in the middle of puddles of wet concrete or quicksand or dog-shit or old sauerkraut? How many logical, rational choices have worked-out just fine? You know, like that strategy for dealing with the unruly boss or that practical plan for earning that whatever it was you imagined you wanted so much?
    Still, I am a good little Indian. I will bluff my two deuces into a winning hand, taking the leap of faith and holding with the mystic. I will refuse to give a shit about "right," because I’ll stake everything on "wise"—that thing well beyond correctness. That thing so profound and wonderful that you don’t have to write the essay in its defense. Besides, the mystic bungee-faith-jumps have become matter of habit, almost a matter of reflex. It ain’t like I’m taking the devil’s dare; it ain’t like I’m taunting, "Sure, God’ll catch me; He’s my father." It’s more like, "I’ll jump off any old parapet any old time because I carry my bungee wherever I go." If I get a concussion and wake-up seeing stars, I will assure myself that I’ve learned to see everything in a whole new light, and I’ll congratulate myself for my incredible resilience. Imaginative and weird do often and look and sound the same.
    So, how do you encourage someone to go on living? I’m not convinced we can convince others of the world’s beauty if they cannot see it for themselves. In the last few days, butterfly gently has floated across the job-site, signaling imminent change. Seems such a simple creature; how could it possibly be the agent of revolution? Seems such a beautiful creature; how could it possibly be responsible for incredible upheaval. But that’s the medicine she carries;’ and, studied carefully, maybe she ought o frighten us. The wings are gorgeous and gorgeously seductive; the rest of the apparatus looks just as creepy, crawly and foreign as any other "bug." If I have grown terr9ified of the ingenuous little butterfly, do you really think you can seduce me back to the conventional wisdom about its beauty? I think you have to sit with me in my benighted condition, teaching me the beauty of the darkness. Don’t bring me a light; don’t encourage me to hang-on until dawn; don’t remind me of sunsets and sunrises I have witnessed, breathtaking. Let me see, or help me see the beauty and wonder that thrive in the darkness. Help me see God’s plan even in the butterfly’s creepy, crawly, foreign thorax. If I have next to nothing and I fear its loss, teach me to experience my fears by encouraging me to go and give-away that last thing. Relived of the thing to which I desperately cling, I no longer will fear its loss. Will I feel better? I’ll feel lighter. Is that better? Will I discover that I really want it back, and therefore will in find the resolve to work toward getting another, better one? Probably. I will. God, how many times have I given-away things I’ve cherished, believing the recipients will cherish those things as much as I; and how many times have the recipients thrashed and trashed my cherished stuff, reminding me that it value lived in me, not in it? And how many times have I resolved to replace the cherished object with the bigger and better, therefore clarifying my values, sparking my motivation, and re-establishing my purpose all at once. Grandma Jewel is right, of course: There is no bad medicine. Not even rabbit, and not even coyote, distasteful and unwanted as they are, carry strong medicine with them, and when they appear we have to take their medicine just as we willingly take hawk’s, eagle’s, and horse’s.
    I still have tons of stuff on my mind—practical and experiential, rather than mystical and philosophic the way this turned-out. But, now, my body cannot sustain and nurture my spirit any longer. So, I’m packin’ it in. Thank you, Blondemuse for admitting me to your circle of friends. You probably cannot imagine just how much it means to me; rest assured, however, it means one whole helluva lot.

    Good night, boys and girls, and Good night, Moon.
    Sunday, October 5th, 2003
    6:47 pm
    starting over again
    If I were going to "start all over again"—you know, that thing I wish to do about a million times each week, because I have grown sick and weary of "the old ways"—I would try to ditch the drama, the excess emotion, and definitely the craziness. I would try to know my fears, working to convert weakness into strength; I would try not to spend so much time and energy running from my fears. All that running and all that hiding has cost me so much. All that time wishing, dreaming, imagining—and lying…especially lying to myself. When all that shit went down at the end of last week, the first and most important thing I recognized was… (way too much passivity in this shit; maybe that’s why we take the time for warm-ups when we work, huh?) …a caricature of myself: features exaggerated for the sake of effect, and the effect didn’t have much effect except to drive people away. I could not identify with my own self-portrait. Truth told, I don’t know if I really much cared for the guy I had caricatured. I don’t know if I would have dated him. And, in the meantime, the bile mixed with the lies, and some toxic reaction happened…
    I’m frustrated, and I’m hungry. I have quietly passed some milestones without really marking them, without really understanding all that they’ve meant. Somewhere along the good red-road I’ve traveled, I made a commitment to craftsmanship, and I actually began to believe in all the ancient stuff about the sacredness and dignity of all work. Digging the holes and cleaning the footings does count just as much as the more skilled stuff. The building rests on those footings, and they do have to mark the earth straight and true, or the building will not stand. Now, I wish I had stripped away much of the emotion around telegraph canyon, investing more of that energy in craft and consistency. And, yeah, I wish I had possessed the skills in the beginning that I carried home with me in the end; I also wish I had carried more discretion about when to use each skill. Above all, however, the emotion—the longing, the hunger, the desire, the compelling wish to be so much better…that’s what sticks. Yearning for skills and experience to honor the commitment to craftsmanship.
    Of course, the same thing applies to the some exponent it applies, because with ther writing I have a lot of the training and experience, and I have a lot of the discretion and discernment to make the stuff really good.
    Chapter two still needs work—in the fgoundation, in the story. There’s a lotta good stuff there, and a lot of it can flow okay; but the characters and their situations still need work. The design and blueprint need work.
    o I feel the pull to "extra innings." I need to work ahead with that, because it’s one the best segments, and it has stuck in my head and heart for a long-long time.
    o In all of it, I need to make sure that I keep steady focus on Colin. BeccaJo is so cute and so seductivbe, it would be easy to lose the focus and make it way too much about her. Because she narrates, she predominates anyway; she has to stay focused on Colin.
    o I’m good with the ending I have imagined

    Of course, the whole idea here is that I am starting all over again. In other words, I feel how the time has come for a new start. I’ve always appreciated the redundancy in "new beginning." It shouldn’t make sense, unless you color your history with so many "old beginnings" that a "new" one somehow can stand-out. Nothing particularly distinguishes today in the eternal round of things; really, it stands out only because it has all the qualities of a perfectly ordinary Saturday. Nothing special at all. Therefore, perfect for quiet reflection and hard work, and starting all over again.
    Yeah, the insanity comes from frustration…and from resentment, and from some kind of simple failure to care for my own needs. I let myself go mal-nourished, dehydrated, sleep-deprived, and all the other things that inevitably cripple my performance on the site. Starting over again, therefore, has to include a lot more attention to the simple requirements of health and fitness; gotta eat, and gotta drink water, and gotta sleep, and gotta bathe and brush teeth. Seems so damn simple, doesn’t it. But things can get so hectic, and I can get so caught-up in attending to others’ needs, and I live with so many people who are so exceptionally skilled at attending to their own needs and neglecting everyone else, that the basics easily can get swept aside under the pressure of some "urgent" thing. I do have to become a little more "selfish"—at least, to the point where I honor the requirements of self-respect, respond to the demands of conscience. Yeah, that stuff. All that stuff.
    Discipline and craftsmanship. Translation: take all that emotional energy, all that stuff that frequently dances along the margin of frenzy, and sublimate it into the work and the love. How hard can that be? Right? I know—I feel—how much energy surges around in there; I sometimes feel how comfortably I can settle down on intuition and settle into my natural "suspension," using the balance on the center. Other times, I can feel, and I fight against, how thoroughly I have locked into my head; I get that running dialogue going between the carping voice of some abandoned parent, some mean-spirited coach hell-bent on degrading me, and the voice of my stronger, more authentic, more compassionate, and ultimately more powerful self. Naturally, I worry about the schizophrenia in this shit; but I know one "voice" comes from the product of my experience, sounding a great deal like the avatar of my mother’s expectations and the echo from her treatment of me; the other voice, usually smaller and a little more resentful in spite of its inchoate power, comes from the me I learned to repress. Often, under the force of repression and degradation, it turns mean, nasty, and bitter; it seems that voice has no free and clear outlet. But! Bring on the sublimation and re-direction. The work and the writing offer ample opportunity for free expression of everything natural and good. Starting again, I have to honor those things. The strength, empathy, compassion, intuition, initiative—all the stuff that really does come naturally to me, and all the stuff I somehow simultaneously overplayed and lost in my self-caricature. In some ways, it’s a lot simpler than I make it. It really is just a Nike thing: "just do it."

    Time to begin caring for the girls, following my heart, and asserting all that I know is right. Gotta pay lots of little attentions to Allie, and gotta make certain that she gets paid regularly. Now, gotta get into chapter two…on the grid.
    Saturday, October 4th, 2003
    5:51 pm
    I’d be lying if I tried to deny my exhaustion; moving and rebuilding Greg’s redwood fence required a lot more gutwork than brains, and I had muscles full of lactates and brains full of mush before I even began. When a guy pays cash in advance, however, and with my truck sitting dead on the driveway, longing for a new front tire, I had no choice. Not really. No rest for the weary and no justice for the poor, but a guy’s gotta keep sluggin’ along. And everybody knows how this kinda tired feels good, because it comes from decent, honest hard work. I know the different kinds and categories of tired—from post-debauchery burn-out to deep-depression eyelid slam to can’t-take-another-step work-tired. Tonight, I work against the last kind, because I have looked forward to sitting down and writing all day…for days. A whole lotta stuff went undone today because I accepted Greg’s job; this one thing absolutely cannot remain undone. That whole thing about needing to write like I need to breathe applies: if I don’t get into this writing and make meaning out of my own intentions, I will go to bed feeling like I’m suffocating.
    I sit here in my grimy-sweaty work clothes, still misted with sweat and patina’d with dirt and sawdust; my boots still squeeze my two-socked feet, and my arms, shoulders, and hands ache from swinging the framing hammer, jamming the digger against the ground, and wrestling the old posts out of the unyielding dirt. Those posts and male cats shared that common trait—easy to drive it in and hell to pull it out. Yeah, I’d moan and groan, too; and Tom Robbins probably would claim, in all sincerity, that he or his characters heard the posts moaning as they gave-up their bond with the soil. Starving, I shovel crackers and diet Coke into my face, hunger gnawing away at me even more fiercely than my longing for love; I know I should get something decent to eat. Still, I want to do this. Although I have observed the rituals that mark passage from amateur to professional, and although I have blown-up and framed checks from the stuff I have written, I still feel that this little exercise marks a turning point, some sort of writer’s sacrament. If I neglect it, I know I’ll get my poor little self relegated to some nasty, smelly, shit-caked writers’ purgatory; and it’ll take me another quarter of a lifetime to dig my way out of it. Do I over-dramatize this stuff? Hell, yes. I’m not stupid. I know it’s just another "blurty," and like all the other blurties, it may or may not ever find an audience. I write it for myself with the vain wish that maybe someone will look over my shoulder or peek into my heart or lurk around the edges of my feelings, and I’ll get some encouragement, or I’ll win some scathing criticism, or somehow the writing will draw an audience. Still, it means more than just another little journal entry, because I approach it with reverence, wearing my heart on my sleeve, and throwing my whole self up for grabs.
    Once I made the choices and commitments, they seemed perfectly natural and obvious, and I wondered why I had struggled so long with so much confusion. Of course, I already knew the answer to my own confusion: I really and truly cannot stand success and happiness, so I manufacture these mini-crises to make certain I stay stuck in my own unhappiness and mired in m y own magical mystery. I love this business of building stuff, and I love the feeling of writing. I revere the craft that both demand, and I love the challenges both of them pose. One or the other would suffice to make a life; the two of them together make just enough to fill a life. I need nothing more to command my own self-respect. At least, I don’t need any more titles, vocations, causes, or stuff for my resume. Carpenter by day and writer by night—the balance, the…well, whatever. I should have done it long ago. I’m glad I’ve done it now.
    What’s different tonight?
    It’s all about the initiative.
    When I first joined the union and started pounding nails, I did it grudgingly. No, I didn’t do it reluctantly; I did it deliberately. But I didn’t have my whole heart in it, because I still carried around a pretty good dose of bitterness about giving-up full-time writing. Yeah, I grossly had miscalculated how long the novel would take, and the money had run out. The kids already had given-up lots of the luxuries they imagined as life’s essentials, and I knew more sacrifice loomed on the horizon. I knew what I had to do, and I did it dutifully. But we all know that stuff done dutifully comes with bitterness and resentment. And, yeah, I felt scared. Who wouldn’t? I didn’t know whether or not I really could handle the job’s physical demands, and I didn’t know whether or not I had any aptitude for it; after all, I’ve known plenty of wanna-be writers who love the feeling of tying their fingers in knots as they dance the qwertyuiop, and who have no hope whatsoever of producing anything worth publishing. If I attempted turning pro, I ran the considerable risk of discovering that I never would amount to anything more than a dedicated amateur—just another homeowner with some pretty tools and skills for building fences and doghouses. Now that I’ve hung in with the work and nailed against some of the best, I have a lot more confidence. With the development of confidence, I have open opportunities for joy and satisfaction, and I have felt the bitterness slowly evaporate out of my system. So, now I choose it. I don’t do it deliberately and dutifully from harsh necessity; instead, I do it from pure, unvitiated volition. I wanna do it, and I wanna do it with skill, grace, and dignity.
    And when I first started playing around with the plot for One Little Indian, I don’t think I really believed that I would make it happen. Even looking at Alice Turner’s assurance that I "could make a living as a fiction writer," I didn’t really believe it. I kept messing with the charts, graphs, and blueprints, though. Characters took on lives of their own and the stories unfolded as the characters came to life. I felt presumptuous saying, "I’m working on a novel." How many English professors spend years playing-around with works that never get finished, because fear prevents them from finishing and attempting publication. I easily coulda been one of those professors. When the bullshit-blizzard began at SDSU, though, and I faced the imminent prospect of getting buried under an avalanche of oozy crap, I saw no other choice. Become a full-time professional fiction writer or get crushed. So, I turned pro, and I made a declaration {I was gonna revise that to say "I declared," but the fancier and more pompous expression captures the spirit and mood more precisely; so, yeah, I "made a declaration" about like the thirteen colonies did.} I announced to everyone who held any stake in any part of my life, "I am retiring from professoring and becoming a full-time writer." I took the advance and set to work. Sorta.
    But I bogged.
    I bogged, because, the first time I turned pro, I did it on the strength of unrelenting compulsion.
    Compulsion exhausts. It fades faster than inspiration. It plays-out faster than a top-forty pop tune. It burns-out faster than dry pinecones. How many similes can I pile-up?
    This time, I do it by choice. I do it with that same pure volition that binds me to carpentry. I make the commitment because I love writing, and because I believe in my characters and their stories. I do it because I understand—and accept—that the Great Author blessed with this gift and this need, and to turn away from the book would amount to blasphemy. Sure, I still have a healthy respect for everything that can go wrong; I have a healthy fear of rejection, and I have a hefty tolerance for criticism and revision.
    This time, I make these commitments with a better understanding of what’s required to honor them, and I make them willingly. The commitments give me tons of opportunities to manifest the man of me in the work I do. It all seems not just honest and decent, but genuine and authentic. Is there a difference between "genuine" and "authentic" or are they perfect metonymies?

    Of course, these affirmations come with a pretty clear understanding that I gotta let go of some stuff; and they also come with a pretty clear understanding that they depend on my recovering my own genuine (or authentic) self. All of that, however, has gotta be the stuff for another "blurty." And I need food, a shower, clean clothes, and a nap.
    Wednesday, October 1st, 2003
    8:16 pm
    People out there actually ateend events and "grand occasions." Some people even stage or star in them. Wow. Really. It all seems a little unreal and incomprehensible to me—you know, the idea that all those faces in the crowds that appear on the fringes of televised events really belong to genuine, breathing people. I magine having a such a passion for football, for example, that you’d give-up your comfortable seat fro every game in the league just to venture out into the autumn air and take-in one home town game from some shitty seat so high-up in the stadium you need oxygen and a sherpa to survive the ascent! And figure that one seat cost as much as satellite service for about three months; and, if you took a friend, bought beers and dogs…holy shit! I magine having that much passion for something that you actually would become a part of the event! Not a participant, but just an extra; imagine having so much passion for that something that you would pay in inconvenience and cash for the privilege of adorning the event, adding your cipher to its magnitude.
    The Great Artist just didn’t design me to become a fan. And, just like in some other thing I wrote recently, I hear W.C. Fields echoing through my head: I wouldn’t attend an event that would invite me. "Tell ‘em something vague."
    At the end of our junior year, after the prom and the swetest days of our romance, as I packed-up for California and Allyn wrote her farewell in my yearbook, she wrote it on the section cover for "Events," saying that she knew it belonged right there. I knew then, and I understand even better now, how wonderfully thoughtful that one choice really was. I guess it stands as some sort of symbol—probably a synechdoche—for the whole universe of things I have in mind when I talk about someone caring about me rather than for me. I don’t need someone to make my lunches, lay-out my clothes, make lists of shit I have to remember. My God! I run the most efficient little one-man enterprise in North America. Instead, I need somone to take even a moment and make a choice about things meaningful and matterful; I need someone to devote a moment to asking and answering, "What will touch his heart? What will turn-up the corners of his mouth in that sweet, wry smile? What will pierce that thin cnady shell and melt the milk chocolate inside?" How thrilling that Allyn though I constitutued an "event" in her life. How brave that Allyn confessed, obliquely, her surprise at my sweetness and gentleness. I knw where the initial doubt and sketpticism came from; I understand the high school façade I erected and the bad-ass poses I struck. I wish I had understood, earlier and better, not how they misrepresented me—shit, they were supposed to misrepresent me as some Clint Eastwood kinda tough-guy…maybe, Steve McQueen; but how they subverted everything I wanted to accomplish by posing. Of course, my father hit the nail right on the hammer when he nailed me, "You’re all image and no substance; where’s the man insaide those fancy clothes?" I probably embellish, but why not elevate the remark just a little bit. It, too, constituted an event in my life. Kept strikin’ those bad-ass poses for decades after the eleventh grade "event." Some guys just never learm, huh?
    I would cherish an event like that now.
    I’d like to feel breath-taken. I like to feel stupefied, dumbstruck, speechless, kicked in the head and the gut just for the sake of jump-starting my heart.
    Saturday, September 27th, 2003
    9:13 pm
    the eddie bauer guy
    The first couple of times I wrote stuff for "Blurty," I knew I was trying too hard. Not that it wasn’t genuine, but that it was stylized—kinda like the Eddie Bauer picture I would post on my profile if I could just bring myself to be so duplicitous. But what would be the point, ya know? I studied that Eddie Bauer picture for a long time, and I came to the conclusion that I’m not that far from it…just like I’m not that far from matching the women whose profiles I find attractive as I browse the personals and let the machine do the sorting. Yeah, I studied the man in the picture, thinking for a moment, "Oh, my God! What if he’s gay?" But this guy never should intrude into real life. He projects ruggedness, self-confidence; I doubt he’s at home with danger, but he projects the illusion that he feels pretty at-home with himself, and he sure as hell looks at home on the range. That’s not bad. I like the shirt; and, although I drained all the color from the picture, I liked the color scheme—gray denim shirt over a yellow tee-shirt. Nice contrast of both colors and textures—as if any self-respecting guy oughta know that stuff. Then, after dabbling with questions about the discrepancy between image and substance, I realized that, beyond the model’s striking resemblance to the real me, we gotta ask the question, "Can that sucker write?" I suppose some wise-ass is gonna ask the same question about me, but I have my answer ready; I imported it directly from Ketchum, Idaho. "I’m still learning to write." It’s a life-long enterprise, and no one ever should trust anyone who claims that he or she knows how to make the magic appear all day, every day. I will say that I feel totally and completely determined to keep learning and trying, because I think the difference between pro’s and amateurs lives in that determination; I feel pretty sure that lots of amateurs have at least as much or more raw talent as the professionals, but the professionals regard it as I do—as natural and as essential as breathing; and if I don’t do it every day, I will suffocate. Not skill or technique, but sheer pit-bull determination about it. I will learn to write, damn it. I will. Does the Eddie Bauer guy, so rugged and nicely dressed, feel anything like that determination? About anything?
    So, let’s face it: No one ever will drop dead from my gorgeousness. I doubt that anyone even will have her breath taken by my compelling good looks. I do believe, however, that Jaymie put the nail right on the hammer when she answered my ingenuous question about my looks: "Are you kidding?" her eyes flew open wide, "You are adorable!" I can live with adorable. Jaymie showed obvious surprise that I even would wonder; but you’ve probably noticed that the advertisers don’t recruit "adorable" to push their products. I can’t persuade citified little slickers that they need rugged shirts like mine; they wanna look rough and bad-ass and all, and the best I can offer is a faint promise that, if they wear what I’m wearing, they’ll look pretty damn cute. It’s probably the same thing as the difference between the guy the girls want to bed and the guy who qualifies as "boyfriend material." I always rang-up "boyfriend material" on their Richter scales, and I got put on-hold until they had used-up all the bad boys. Of course, I can’t hide or hide from the Truth: I am boyfriend material. Although I have abandoned Romance as a way of life, I haven’t abandoned loving or passion or adoration. I still got the turbo-charged passion thing goin’. Yeah, it’s idling, waiting for the right time and opportunity; but it’s still well-timed and well-tuned. Not exactly stuck in traffic; not exactly stuck in first gear; more like stuck in…umm, umm, umm…the driveway.
    Why would anyone want a woman to drop dead from his gorgeous? Even swooning seems a little silly. Given my choice, I’d want a woman stone-cold sober to gaze right into my eyes and tell me that, yes, I am adorable—not because I am so damn cute, but because I genuinely have grown worthy of adoration.

    I don’t think I’m gonna make the top ten lists today. I don’t think I’ve done much more than scratch the surface of all that’s irritating, annoying, bullyragging, and menacing my tender little psyche. But "Blurty" got my fingers movin’ across the "qwerty" again—see, trying too hard—and that, all by itself, counts for a helluva lot.
    Of course, more tomorrow, because I feel pit-bull determined that I will learn to write.
    7:49 pm
    y-chromosome blues
    I fight, with all my might, against bitterness, darkness, depression, and cynicism. I don’t want to turn curmudgeon. I don’t want to acquiesce in the threat that the bad guys will win in the end. I don’t want to furl my brow so long and so hard that my eyes live always in shadow.
    I remember the parade of slightly-past-mid-life guys who tromped into Coco’s, three times daily; they sat at the counter, attempting simultaneously to flirt with the servers and look up their skirts, affecting what they imagined looked "cool," and trying desperately to recover the teen-appeal they never had. They lived sad, empty lives; and sometimes I let myself imagine to what they went home—little rooms, illuminated only with television’s eerie blue-gray glow; private places, where they hid stroke mags from no one but themselves, changing faces on the "models," replacing them with the Coco’s hottie du jour. "Bathos," comes to mind—a vocabulary word from that same era: pathetic beyond pathetic. I don’t want to become a "mature" man whose life has evaporated and whose function remains; I don’t want to grow-up to become a machine. "How can I help you?" the allegedly mature men repeat to the whole world, and all the people in it. In their private spaces, they change their tunes, sing-songing "I wish… If only… I wish." From the interrogative to the subjunctive; from the condition of the next life’s function to hypostatizing a world that never could exist. Phew! I scare myself with shit like that. A little too Berkeley for my taste, even if I can explain it in detail.
    I don’t want to become one of those guys.
    This afternoon, I asked, from habit and reflex, "How are you?" gazing into the comely blonde’s riveting blue-gray eyes, requesting a pack of cigarettes. "Super," she replied, meaning it. I stood there, sorting my reactions, remaining silent, keeping my eyes locked in hers; and, as she handed me a pack of Pall Malls, and caressed my palm with my change, I had to inquire, somewhere between flirting and genuine curiosity, "So, what’s the secret of ‘super’?" She didn’t even hesitate, didn’t stop to ponder, mull, ruminate, metacognate, or even really think; instead, she just knew. "Just being me," she beamed. Later, I reflected that being a comely blonde blessed with riveting cerulean eyes and basking in the late afternoon sun on a southern California Saturday, maybe "super" doesn’t require much more. My first reaction, however, sounded and felt a whole lot different. I felt jealous! The only word for it—"jealous!"—Exclamation point and all. If only it all came that simply and with such self-assurance… That’s my "if only [and an ellipsis]."
    Jealous of what?
    All that self-assurance and contentment without much hint of narcissism. After all, cute or not, a woman building her career at 7-11 cannot afford too much arrogance. All that confidence and not even a hint of affectation. She said "super" with quiet assertiveness. Not high on crystal or Jesus; not selling or pimping; just a fact—cold and hard as anything Joe Friday ever demanded. She had the kind of self-love I’m sure people imagine when they check the little box on the profile form. I wonder how many hombres understand the subtlety and complexity in that question; after all, the Y-chromosome usually mandates a big biceps-flex and a hero’s boast, "Wull, hell yeah, Ah luv mah ol’ self. Hell, yeah." The stroke mags are just catalysts for fierce fits of self-love. And I still remember Donna’s comment, as the fire truck raced-by, code 3, "Oh, look, a six-pack of dicks in a handsome carrying case." As I remember the moment, Donna smacked her lips after she quipped. Why do women affect powerlessness? They know, from age fourteen on, women know that they can bring almost any man to his knees, almost any time, and almost any place. Freud probably guessed right when he surmised that seduction had everything to do with persuading a man to compromise his authority. My experience tells me "the good doctor" guessed right; I might even go along with his well-educated guess that "hysteria" comes from a woman’s sensation that she has lost her power and prerogative.
    Jealous of what, then?
    Of that perfect and perfectly self-controlled, self-contained power. If the blonde in 7-11 had time and opportunity to elaborate, I’d stake a paycheck that she explain, elegantly, "Take me or leave me. God and I have collaborated to craft me just as I am. I’m fine without you; can you convince me that I’ll be fine with you?" Burden of proof rests on the guy. And maybe I envy that part, too: all that self-assurance defies rational proof or empirical data, asserting, "I’m fine simply because I declare that I’m fine. But you, el hombre con coraje, have to prepare the essay."
    And that’s how I begin filling the ellipsis in my "if only…" If only I could find the proof that I won’t go curmudgeon, because The Great Author didn’t draft and craft me that way. If only I could substantiate the claim, "I’m not old; I’m classic." If only I could prove, "I’m not weird; I’m imaginative." If only I could close-up and scar-over that hole where my male-ego used to be.
    11:45 am
    intimacy...and stuff
    For all those bezillion years i spent coming of age, i dedicated myself to Romance--all of Romance: love, valor, the hero's boast, feats of bravado, feats of idiocy, tender gestures, and daring daylight rescues. once or twice, i found love. I did. I found women i abolsutely, completely, and totally loved. I guess, however, I loved Romance more than love, because the loves have headed on down the dusty trail; and I live with sepia-faded mental images and idealized notions of those owmen really lived and thought and felt and touched and smelled...and all the rest. For the last of those bezillion years, as I finally, grudgingly crossed-over the magical-mystical threshold of maturity, i have gone numb, become a machine, done everything "right," dutiful," and respectable. I grew-up, and Romance faded, and now...
    Now, I hate how cynical I have become. Yeah, yeah, practical and realistic add-up to cynical: the gorgeous thirty-something woman with the big-big hair and the golden suntan might have loved me...except the guy with the car and the money distracted her from the importance of substance and heart. The guy will lose his hair, crash his car, squander his money, and reveal what a blow-dryed little marshmallow he really is; in the end, substance and heart will prevail. And, in the end, I'll have grown too old and feeble to remember. I hear W.C. Fields's voice ringing in my ears. In the same way that he never would join a club that would grant him membership, I have an uneasy feeling i never would love, and certainly never could respect, a woman who could condescend to love me...not if I persisted in those old Romantic ways. But, now, if a woman came-along and recognized the character and spirit in me, letting go of concerns about meny and "stuff," and investing in character, imagination, bravery, and depth... Well, how would that sentence end?
    I gave-up Romance, risked cynicism, and discovered the value of simple care.
    I can do everything for "you," and I can do everything to maintain me. And I think I'm really, pretty-much okay with all that. Functional, and all. It seems so little to ask: Please, just care about me. Don't bother caring for me; I'm not broken or decrepit. Just care about me. And, when we both feel the care, the intimacy will flourish. I hope