I feel so good after I write a first draft especially if it’s something that had me stumped so then I start to dawdle, sending emails, printing out forms, greeting people wasting time returning to the world when really I needed to run. I had only two hours to go to whole foods, go to the gym, go to a meeting and be home for dinner not so late with my human & animal family. I’d been holed up working. I ran out the door. I had to mail a couple of things. Left hand. I went to the dry cleaners which I have instead of a doorman. They made a joke about me snooping under the counter since there was no one there when I walked in. Then Abraham handed me the package from Paul that a messenger had brought. Good, the galleys I needed. My yellow bike was leaning against the window outside. I jumped on rode up the block on the sidewalk to the mailbox when some young jerk yelled GET ON THE STREET. It just pissed me off and even moreso since he was a kid. I live here I thought in a deep and entitled way. I yelled LITTLE BOY just to put him in his place. I continued to slather on in my mind meaner details, other more cutting things I could say and when I got to the mailbox still on my bike I leaned forward and dropped the package in not the mail. OH NO. This is a strictly moral blog. I wanted someone I don’t even know, didn’t even see understand precisely who I am and who they are, all this in a flash, on a wintery sidewalk and yet in my strange catholic world of punishment & karma and over-heated anger I will surely screw things up, absorbing the wild disorder. I dropped the letters in the box and tomorrow I will probably make a joke about this all and ask for a pdf. Why can’t I keep my mouth shut. Let the kid yell. So what. I will not get off the sidewalk.
Dec 24 HEALING
A man healed me on Christmas Eve. I repeated his name parrot like as I walked out the door but sieve like now I can’t remember it. I’m merely the perfect mime, a lifelong mosaic of that. Leo & I had been gathering gifts on 3rd St. and I heard this whirring spasmodic sound and realized the toaster oven had been on from at least the day before. Trusty little oven not setting my apartment on fire but hot as hell. I pulled it away from the back of the countertop which is wood thinking that even while the oven is cooling it still could enact the worst setting fire to my ancient home the possession of which has just been reaffirmed for me by my landlord’s lawyer through my lawyer indeed I do live here phew Continue reading
A diary should begin a new something so I’m trying this day on for size as the start of a new era. I’m fried. I’ve been up late and early typing my homeless retreat which I finished this morning. 107 pages but big font. The retreat was last fall and I immediately started my account right after it but after about a month of pecking away I got distracted. Yet I owed this account not to a journal or a publisher but the people who gave. Part of the retreat rules (according to Zen peacekeepers who organized it. For info http://eileenmyles.com/projects.php) were that we should raise $500 by asking friends to support our retreats. The money went to the various missions where we ate and in thanks we owed an account of the retreat to our friends who gave. And I didn’t return to my account until last summer in Truro and then again in Wellfleet this fall. But the blackout in NYC was the real writing bonanza. Candles in the kitchen, fat no. 2 pencil on exam blue books — that dark & none of electronic this made me write like hell. Aloneness and quiet in a long dark apartment where Leo was there on the other end with dogs and cats. Power comes on & writing stops. So Jane offering me her P-town house last week I knew would get me to the end. But is it good. Can’t tell from here. Dying to print it out. I like paper. I like the room I’m in. Meanwhile I’m writing this on an I-phone in bed. Fingertips and slow. When people talk about procedural restraints in writing I think yeah my life. Its materials. Including tired, night, hand.
THE WIDE PEEP
Time to start blogging. I’ve departed for months because . . . well honestly I was ambivalent about a blog that was self-promoting while I was actively self-promoting my book. It seemed too much. But all that is over now, I’m at a colony working on new stuff. It’s time to blog. I wrote this before I left town. Rachel Zolf was leaving town too so we went up to the Met together. She laughed why, why do you want to see this show. Here:
Yesterday I went up to the Met for the second time in one week. I wanted to see the show about windows in the 19th century. Why? Well I love windows simply. I love windows as a light source, and the effects of that light on the shapes in the room and the shape of the room itself. The effects of the light on the people in the room, and the displayed choices of some artist as to which room, which people to depict with light falling on their faces and activities. The other thing of course about windows is that they show the outside. They show the outside to the “in.” It’s kind of a menu of activities, an array of weather options and a simple explanation of why you may or may not want to go out. And the window is the ongoing painting of somebody’s life – early film. One fixed film. You planted your house right there and that’s what you saw. And yet other things happened out there that were beyond your control. A tree grew, or was knocked down and a building was built right there. Someone across the way got blinds. And previously you might have watched them naked. For years. What’s interesting is that the painter paints the people inside the house for the viewing pleasure of the people outside. (Outside the painting entirely. Us. ) It makes of a painting an imaginary window and opens a house or a room from the other side. Thus this dollhouse view of life which is what I like. And why retrospectively I think I wanted to see these. The people inside have some power. They have shades too, and curtains and can pull them across the top so the light is softened. And inside the rooms, the apartment has an oil lamp with a fancy shade that’s all scallop shaped and so the light at night inside grew enormous and like a shaking creature of shade covered a great deal of the ceiling. We get that particular show, unearned but given us by a painter who was an artist who constructed stage scenery so he saw how a home was a show, a life. The life inside which now we can see.
Did I like the show at the met? As much as I wrote. I think so. Often the rooms were artists’ studios. An artist might get a residency in Italy for five years which is of course incredible to me. What that thought electrified is how people now, people who I know go to Rome for a year and I’d enjoy being one of them though I frankly have only been in Rome when I was depressed, having just been or was actively being betrayed at the time I was wandering around in Italy. These young painters in Rome seem to have none of those problems and I think these might be nostalgic works. Even done in the present and sent to their families to say see what I see, see how I live and you and I shall remember this vision for the rest of my life. Though Italy was sad I’ve always found it tremendously beautiful, and the food which seems to have no place in these pictures, is there, out there on the streets and in other rooms that never get painted for some reason. Is external light coming in and the idea of a sumptuous feast, are they such a different subjects that we can never see them both here. That’s weird. Only sad mixed with loneliness, with non-existent conversation between couples, with small bits of work, sewing, drawing, or thought as you sit and look out there at the magnificence of architecture, at your patron’s further estates though I’m told that the vistas outside of the rooms in these paintings are quite often fake, or transported in like the next scene in a film. It’s the future, a fantasy, the lie.
Eileen’s book is inferno (a novel) at orbooks.com
I thought it would be really easy to write a blog while I was touring my book while making an oath to not talk about my book on it. I don’t think that’s why I haven’t been blogging but honestly unless I’m getting paid or am otherwise compelled to act nothing happens. Consider this a message from about a month and a half ago. The tour is almost over and I officially disavow my oath about not talking about my book. Last weekend in New York the Howl Festival had a street art component and it wasn’t that bad. People tacked sheets or something to the fence bordering Tompkins Sq. Park and for every few ridiculous pieces of “art” there was something interesting that I was delighted to look at. It seems brilliant for young or whatever kind of artists to know that to colonize a shitty public art show is actually a smart way to show work. More fie on the controllers of quality too I think. But in the midst of all that was this art which I show here and I was stunned. I don’t think he (I’m assuming Philippo is a man) should be censored but I was in awe of what it is entirely possible to say publicly about women. You know that feeling you may be familiar with that your reality is not exactly stable or secure and what you anticipate as safety or power can readily be undercut or taken away at the drop of the hat – that feeling, well this artist wants you to know you’re right and he’s here to underscore that feeling of free floating fear. What we’re looking at is fascist art, fucked up art, really banally evil. I’m sure the person who made it thinks he’s being edgy. Or speaking truth to power. An ornery individual just had a smart idea. Is he perhaps mad at a single female and is taking the predictable next step of making of his own puny anger a rule of sorts. A maxim. A warning. I saw people taking pictures of it and laughing. I don’t get the joke. Why not a dead dog – or a woman. Really. It is that bad.
I am now at the airport heading to Portland. I went to the movies with Lisa Robertson and Kathy Slade last night in Vancouver. We saw The Town. I have actually taken two pictures lately on my cell phone. One is the above piece of art; the other is this movie poster. The poster was on a bus stop in New York and it just looked good and so did the trailer I’d seen repeatedly. The movie does take place in Boston, which moves me of course because that’s my hometown. And the criminals were disguised as nuns on the movie poster. I’m not a huge nun freak or anything and usually feel critical of the many nun send ups mostly by people have not had the hardcore nun experience I’ve had but I think this is a really strong graphic, nuns with machine guns robbing a bank. Cleansing perhaps in terms of feminized violence. It looked good and I thought I want to see The Town. Boston is very much a city you would call a town. It’s that kind of town. Interestingly my favorite film critic Cathy de la Cruz who used to have an amazing two-headed female film podcast that was brilliant – Cathy also wanted to see The Town. Unfortunately she lives in LA. I blithely thought when I was there that we would see it together but she quickly disabused me of that informing me when I got there that she had no idea I was in town and was already booked. She added that it might be typical of a Sagittarius (which she also is) to assume everyone knew they were in town whenever they arrived. I did think everyone was on facebook and I also did think Cathy looked at my website which she also doesn’t do. Those two things are not the same as being a friend and now I’ve got to remember it. I learned so much by not getting to see this film with her. I have one other aside which I hope this post can hold. I’m risking time bloat, I realize. A blog should happen fast. So this is an old school blog. Fat and slow. I was in New York and having lunch with a bunch of writers from Toronto. Zoe Whittall and Emily Schultz and was it Brian. We all threw our own astrological information around for a spell and then we queried each other about our investment in this system. Everyone shrugged and said we liked it somehow. One person pointed out, maybe Brian and this I think is the brilliant thought that he liked astrology as a belief system because it had spawned no wars, no one had ever killed anyone in the name of this belief. Isn’t that true? I know that maybe some cult murders have little astrological components but really en masse no one has ever tried to eliminate the Scorpions, the people of Pisces etc. It doesn’t breed hate this mode of bonding. So try it. And now I want to talk about The Town. I’ve seen it twice not once — in Vancouver (Canada is clearly a theme) and again in Boston, more properly, Arlington Mass. with my mother. I saw it at the Capitol Theater where I earlier saw the Ten Commandments when I was under ten. This movie theater is home. The Town blew me away. Like its predecessor Gone Baby Bone that Ben Affleck also directed The Town has lots of great raw Boston footage of faces and corners and a kind of tight lostness that’s particular to my town. Ben is kind of the Pasolini of Boston if you’ve ever admired Pasolini’s miles of gorgeous grim looking Italian human faces. Both men read deeply (and shallowly which is the true depth of film) into the mien of us. I contend that in this moment in time Boston is a place we’ve never seen before. Like Baltimore Boston is a particular city and has been allowed to rot and fester in its own particular way and that’s probably vanishing now in the mow down of gentrification but something in it wants to be seen as its gone baby gone. Bostonians reflect the hardness of being lied to for so long about the significance of history. A criminal Boston face is doing much behind a rock while pulling on a tennis sweater or something tweed in order to do a job. The nightmare of class is Boston’s trick or treat all year long. It’s like everyone’s a counterfeiter but some of the money is real. The dark pleasure is trying to know. I love that Ben Affleck unlike his luckier counterpart Matt Damon did all the wrong things – drug problem, dating J-Lo, taking lousy parts. And then he went home. I think both of these guys are from the right side of the river (Cambridge) not the wrong (Boston) but once you find yourself on the wrong street as maybe Ben Affleck did you begin to understand the wrong side is the more interesting story and it’s always there to be experienced and read. Ben understands noir which should be abundant in these times. Everywhere I go and everyone I meet seems ruined. It’s time to tell it dark. I also am glad he got away from Dennis Lehane’s Boston story which Gone Baby Gone ultimately was. Lehane seems like someone hung up on the child molester narrative. What’s wrong with that story is that child molesters seem to be the only people we can all agree can be morally killed. I think morality means we don’t ever get to kill anyone. Isn’t killing wrong? Isn’t that just a fact. I feel like Ben got his something back when he began to look at Boston. I also think he can act. His face turns shades of feeling while nothing on the surface is going on. His face speaks loud either because he’s making good films for his own face or for his own insides. It’s a crime story, but even the chase scenes because they are in small Boston streets not wide LA ones seem human scale and more about the people in the cars and their particular skills rather than astonishing machinery and special effects. The Town is creepy because of its scale and the ending is a little wrong but Ben got close. A little too much violence my mother said but I didn’t actually feel that way at all. Interestingly the moral violence in The Town concerned Ben shooting the man who had turned his mother on to dope. And I was glad when he got it, of course. I’ve got my own weaknesses, like you.
Tonight was black and wet in New York and weirdly like a warm fall-like weather from another part of the world. We’ve had bike lanes for a while now and I turned onto mine from the gym on 4th St. and wound up right behind a huge pile of bottles and cans in a blue plastic bag mounted on the top of a cart. I had to be immensely patient waiting for a moment to pass this heap and when I did I looked at the person manning it. I think if I don’t describe them – their race, their age, their gender well what do you see. The person contributed to my feeling about the weirdness of the night. As I was heading home they were carrying that. Who do you think this person was. Adele stepped up to the mike tonight and blew the room right out. Adele Bertei is five feet tall. She sings, she writes, she was sort of a noise band punk in the late seventies and eighties and I don’t know how long she was out of New York but she’s been here all summer and been singing all week with a put together band of old experts. I rode over to the Bowery Electric (what did this used to be everyone asked. Remote. What was that? Hubcaps and records on the wall. Oh.) As soon as I entered the room everyone looked familiar and so did I from the stares I got. When you’re in a fifty or sixty something crowd everyone wonders who you were. Did they know you. You’re looking through changed hair, no hair, fat or skinny. Every now and then someone looks really good. Adele does. She had this little cap on with her hair bundled in. Jackie Coogan in “The Kid.” Her face is wide like a cat’s and she gleamed at the room in that born performer way like a mask but her mask was not so tight that you felt the person behind it might be going ho hum what will I do later and oh I forgot to pick my laundry up and my ass itches – something like that. Adele’s mask radiated that she was inside and her face sung almost more than her voice. She was definitely inside but she was out there with us and you could feel the room jump. And jump she did too. She’s lithe. Plus a few extra zippers on her pants – you know like Europeans do and a teeshirt with someone’s face on it. Lucy Sexton asked me whose face it was. I assumed because she knew my glasses can do everything now like binoculars but no I didn’t recognize her. Jody Harris was on guitar. Everyone knew Jody Harris when he worked at the Strand about a hundred years ago and we talked about that. Katrina Del Mar and Sarah Greenwood were down front dancing. Just like themselves too. Karina bouncing around, wild, and Sarah bobbing systematically, cool. I would say they are in their late 30s. And everyone’s new friend Casey and man can Casey smile. There’s no secret string pulling this all together tonight. Adele liked being in town and I feel she’ll probably stay. It was an oldish band, good musicians. I was most moved by the keyboard player though I was obsessed with Jody Harris’s hair. Why don’t I do that. But Adele took all the loose and longing energy in the room. Not the youthful ‘who am I’ energy that drives a youngish rock club, but ‘who are we now’ – a warm collective lostness that still wants to go out and she helped everyone get lost in the soft and melodic now. She screeched and wiggled, she bobbed. She was the evening’s androgynous faun. With a pretty and rambling voice but most alive in the face like a plate of food perpetually handing itself out enthusiastically like the loaves and the fishes not diminished at all by her own generosity indeed truly enjoying the meal.
I had one blog that was about art and another about poetry and both of them advanced this idea of writing about anything as long as in some way it touched art or poetry. And for those very connections I got paid. I once wrote a book of poems called “Skies” that did the same thing. The sky had to come in at some point and it usually does. Today I turned my cell phone off, looked at a couple of newspaper clippings that pissed me off a few days ago and they don’t piss me off today. So nothing there. And the Times today was simply disappointing. It’s not so hot today as to turn the ac on so I’m sitting in this total stillness of day, small dog on the bed, a leaf on a flower in a vase on my desk actually dropped while I sat here writing this. I look to the right and a book I began reading last fall and lost on a plane (and got again) is sitting here. It’s called Echo & Reverb: Fabricating Space in Popular Music Recording 1900-1960. My home is small but I suppose part of this gesture (of making a diary public) is pushing all these tiny envelopes out into the world. About themselves, is that enough. Am I publicizing something – well probably every place but here. So I would like to fabricate a space here where I’m talking about everything but my book. A few years ago Dennis Cooper asked me to do an interview together which would form an introduction to a book about downtown New York. I remember at the time my problem was that I was writing a novel that was almost about that so it was like the conversation was possibly something I had already done. With myself. And I kept not wanting to say that so I feel like or I always felt like my side of that conversation had an empty room which was the thing unsaid. The ache of something that is not publicity, a place that moves constantly, so that it can always be not so much alone but alive, is I think the determined goal of the true pervert today. Whether that pervert is a woman, or an intellectual or a poet, or just a brat does not ever have to get resolved. Ultimately that pervert must die and so will go her idea. But for now she’s making some room around that shivering thought.