Jun 16, 2013
I have one of those stupid, crazy artist’s brains. That’s not to say I’m an artist. I would never call myself that, at least not in public. Regardless of what I would or wouldn’t say, I’m unsuccessful at it. But hey, Bob Dylan once said “there ain’t no success like failure…” I could leave it at that and go on about my business, but that wouldn’t be right, right? Right. I can’t just cut and paste certain parts of lines that support what I have to say if they go on to say something else that would contradict me. It’s the difference between, “This writing isn’t terrible…” and “This writing isn’t terrible, it’s fucking horrendous and the writer should be publicly flogged with wet bamboo.”
I mean, I can do that, but I don’t think it’s right, so I try not to do it. I said “I try.” I don’t always succeed. Speaking of which, the rest of that line goes “But a failure’s no success at all,” so there you have it. Bob Dylan thinks I suck. He’s probably right, but that doesn’t mean he always has to be.
Regarding this weird brain thing, I was driving home today and I saw a man riding a bike behind a young man in a sweatsuit and I wanted to scream “Give ’em hell, Little Mac!” Maybe they would have smiled and waved, knowingly. I doubt it, sincerely, so I did not scream this. I always want to, though. I see things that remind me of other things and I point it out to myself and I say, “Wow, that IS just like so-and-so or whatsawhosits.”
Point it out to other people, they look at you as if you’re insane. Aqualung. Sitting on a park bench. Snot running down your nose. Greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes. The guy rollerblading around in a speedo and a smile, and nothing else, talking to yourself about weebles and how they wobble, but will never, ever fall down. Or you’re the guy who dances in the fountain and splashes the squirrels as people in muted colors drop spare change and mutter things to their kids about why they should stay in Kansas or Oklahoma or any place that isn’t full of crazies.
Where is that place, exactly? Because I can’t find it. You go to California and people will talk to you about gargoyles and Alice in Wonderland and tell you tales of unseen forces and they’ll do it with straight faces while people play volleyball behind them and the Krishnas dance on the boardwalk. Then they’ll have the gall to look at you strangely when you ask how long they’ve been dead. As if you’re the crazy one.
Or maybe you go to Phoenix and get caught up with a few people who eat too many psychedelic drugs. These people show you bones and paintings and relics of cultures long gone and you have visions of God and creation and all of humanity at a rest area in the New Mexico desert, then you start wearing turquoise and calling yourself Red Horse or Moonlight or, God help you, Kevin Costner. Then you wonder if anyone will see what you did there.
Then you won’t care because the people from Texas will come up to you and drop advice about taking a break from writing and focusing on the music scene in Austin, because it’s where anyone who’s anyone goes to make it in music. When you say something to that person about Nashville they’ll spit and walk away like you’re wrong, while laughing about how silly that TV show is. You want to hit them with a TV Guide and scream about the differences between fiction and reality, but you don’t. You walk away and become a little crazier.
Or you go to Florida and stumble, randomly, onto a set for a movie and you meet the people who make these shitty, low-budget films and you try to talk to them, and most of them act like they’re too good to even see you standing there, totally excited about just being around a movie, the way they should be. Then you sign on to be an extra and do a few days work, but they only pay you for one, as if someone, somewhere, is trying to make you hate the film industry. And people. And everything. Or nothing.
Time to fess up. I’ve never been to any of those places, except Florida once, on vacation, but not anywhere they were shooting a movie. I made all that shit up. Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe it’s all 100% true. Maybe it’s a little fiction mixed with a little reality. It doesn’t matter. It just is.
That’s how my brain works, but I can’t use this to do anything really, other than write shit that doesn’t really DO anything. It is what it is. People take me the wrong way. They tend to think I’m arrogant or that I think I know everything. I don’t. At all. I think I’m an idiot. No, I know I’m an idiot, and aside from that I know nothing. Whenever I have a bit of knowledge someone else doesn’t, I can’t believe they don’t know it and I don’t handle it well. I figure if I know it … I mean, Jesus. Who doesn’t?
Also, this thing known as “Time” has shown me that I don’t really seem to “fit” anywhere as a writer. I don’t make connections, because I’m horribly anti-social. So what’s the point? Who the fuck knows? I don’t know why I continue writing. Maybe because I don’t want kids, but I want to leave something behind. Maybe it’s because I’m narcissistic. Maybe I just enjoy the process. One of those is probably right. Maybe not.
Back to the line about there being no success like a failure. There’s something in there that I identify with. Someone once told me about Bradley Nowell. This person told me he was a middle class kid who moved into a bad neighborhood and learned about himself, then he made the music he did and did it with honesty. That’s what made him great. The same person told me about Heath Ledger, and how he locked himself in a room for months trying to “find” the Joker he became on screen – that Tyler Durden thing. That something-something artistic insanity that Van Gogh had. Here’s a man who couldn’t even give his paintings away until after he died. He sold one painting his entire life. One. Van Gogh. Even if you don’t like him, just imagine that – knowing you have something to say, but having no idea how to say it.
The trick, I think, is honesty. Honesty in the face of everything. And speaking about the human condition and the crazy, coincidental, syncretistic existence we reside in. I don’t know what it is. No one does. Not really, but I think Dylan and Charlie Kaufman might have some shit figured out. And Woody Allen. Have you seen Midnight in Paris? Holy shit, why not? It’s fucking amazing. The script is brilliant. He talks to Hemingway! And other people. And Adrian Brody is Dali, and he’s great. And so was Dali, who painted about 31,000,000 loaves of bread before he was finally satisfied.
Maybe that’s the answer. The things I write right now are my loaves of bread. As I continue to paint the bread I’ll notice more and more details and the paintings will improve. You’ll see the crust, brown and cracked, like the tile floor in an old Spanish villa. You’ll see that crust sliced down the middle and bubbly-white, frothy dough rising from the split. You’ll see the plain tablecloth the bread is placed on, white and pristine, balancing the imperfection of the bread. The light and the dark, balanced perfectly in time….in a picture of a loaf of bread.
You’ll read that and say something like “Fuck that’s pretentious.”
And you’re right. It is. But it’s also important. I find the more you paint the bread the more details you see and the more real it becomes. The more real it becomes the more honestly it can be painted. The same goes for writing. The more I write the better it gets. I’m starting to have a point, occasionally. I’m finding something that wasn’t there before, and it amazes me sometimes. Other times I read it and say, “That’s the worst piece of shit I’ve ever seen.”
But why the hell not put it up for people to judge? What do I have lose? Nothing. I’m invisible and have no secrets to conceal.