Most writers keep a notebook wherein we write ideas, plots, characters, sentences, phrases, or even single words. In rare moments we can be struck with an inspiration that emerges unforced from the unconscious mill within our psyche that relentlessly grinds away every day and something we feel worthy of being preserved is born. I’ve always loved reading the notebooks of great writers: Fitzgerald, Dostoyevsky, Wallace Stevens, Emil Cioran, Leopardi and others. A notebook is the furnace in which the raw material of a writer’s art is exposed, excavated, brought to the surface, melted down, alloyed, polished, and finally transmuted into coherence and occasionally, beauty. Diaries are not the same as notebooks. They act like a catch basin of events, people, thoughts that are collected in a linear fashion. While a well-kept diary can also be the source out of which a literary work is formed, it is the notebook which acts as a refiner’s fire.
With this in mind, I decided to share some of the raw material that has accumulated in my notebook over the last few years in its raw and unedited form. I make no claims for the quality of these fragments or their potential for literary alchemy. But they are fascinating in that they expose the wheels of the deep machine that is always turning, turning,….
I’m having coffee in a Starbucks on a breezy Saturday morning. I sit opposite a man in his early seventies who is reading from a book with a green cover and gold embossing. He reads to himself, his lips moving in time with the words. His expression does not change, but the furrowing of his brow follows the rhythm of his reading. He never looks up, drinks his coffee or stops reading. Is he reading a scripture or some other holy book? Is he ill and his reading is holding back the demons of a debilitating disease? Has his wife just died and the echo of the words he reads his only close companion? Or is he perhaps communing with an ancient community of which he is the last member and the only one who can say the words that keep it alive?
My oldest friend and I were young devils in the neighborhood we grew up in. He would make guns (not real guns) out of wood and rubber bands. They shot square pieces of linoleum up to a few hundred feet. When the feral spirit moved us, we would go down to the Harlem River and aim our linoleum squares at passing boats. Luckily, our aims were so poor and the accuracy of these makeshift weapons so haphazard that we never hit anything.
We would mock the rabbi who called out from a second-story synagogue to ask us if we had been bar mitzvahed because he needed to form a minyan [ten Jewish men that needed for prayers]. I went off to college and found out that he had gone off to Antarctica as a meteorologist. My shock came years later when looking him up on the Internet. I learned that he had written a thousand page book telling the stories of the Jewish families from the shtetl of his ancestors. Neither the guns, Antarctica nor our rabbi-mocking had prepared me for this labor of love. Deep within him a flame had burned that in the end became a monument to the families that had been extinguished in the Holocaust.
When I was eleven my grandmother came back into our shared bedroom, fell onto her bed, released a death rattle and died. I screamed for my parents to come in. My mother took me by the hand and led me into the living room and put me on the couch. After a few phone calls, my mother sat next to me. I buried my head in her side and cried. My mother said nothing. Her mother lay dead in the next room and she was mute, her arms slack on her lap, staring silently forward. My grandmother was my savior and my guardian when my mother would descend into one of her black moods. I wanted to say goodbye to her, to make her live again, to take her in my arms and breathe life back into her, but it was not to be.
A woman goes to Paris for Christmas week hoping to find love and solace. Instead, she meets a string of men who treat her badly, lie to her, and use her. On the plane back from Paris she meets a man who at first she isn’t attracted to, but as the flight ends she falls in love.
A first person, real-time narrative of a 15 year-old girl who is committing suicide.
An old man receives an anonymous package containing photographs and other memorabilia from his youth. As he is alone in the world and has no idea of who sent it to him.
A woman keeps an old email address so only her former boyfriends can contact her. She resolves never to answer them.
A man returns to childhood apartment and falls in love with the woman who is currently living there.
A man thinks that someone is coming into his apartment when he is not there. Each time he returns he finds one and only one thing moved.
Hunger is a blessing that no one who is hungry recognizes.
A man avoids looking for a woman to love. When one finally shows up, he is destroyed.
What if every one of us is famous somewhere, but we don’t know it.
A women missing for twenty years floats to the surface of a lake.
He gingerly stepped into a pile of gerunds: walking, eating, shuffling,….
The romance of an onion and a potato.
People who eat in the same restaurant every day but never talk.
Lord of the Rings was an attempt to re-envision the quest for the Holy Grail and the destruction of an ultimate evil for a post-Christian age.
Poets retreat to nature followed by a retreat to the self.
The lost heroic core of Western man.
The final orgy of indulgence, wickedness, and selfishness leading to the downfall of the modern order.
Just before his death, H.G. Wells was nonplussed that the world had not taken his advice that science & socialism are the cure for what ailed society.
[WARNING: EROTIC CONTENT]
She lived in an apartment with her mother. In the living room was a large couch where we started to make love. We quickly moved into her mother’s bedroom where a bright red bedspread covered the bed where she inducted me. I remember the softness of her breasts and the lack of pelvic bones as I got on top of her. She had curly brown hair on top and bottom. Her breasts were large and heavy. She had a dimple that sank into her chin and invited kissing.
After it was over, she was imperturbable. I was giddy and couldn’t stop moving my pelvis. Even after I was soft, I kept thrusting so it wouldn’t end. The red bedspread was bunched up at our feet. We hadn’t taken the time to remove it. She looked concerned that we had left a stain on it and that her mother would find out about the act of penetration we had just finished.
She reached for her pack of cigarettes which were on a table on the side of the bed and lit one up and offered it to me, but I was still too shaken to accept it. I was getting hard again and I began massaging her breasts as the smoked curled around our heads. She seemed somehow reluctant to engage once more and I didn’t understand why. She looked at me and with her eyes said, “That was for you, not for me so don’t make me do it again.” But my engine was no longer idling. Rather it had shifted directly into third gear and I found myself on top of her again. This time, however, I recognized there was a real women under my bones and slowed down. I kissed her while I kept up my rhythm. Quite unexpectedly, she started to move her hips and keep time with me. She reached around me and held me closer. Suddenly, her legs were on my shoulders and her breathing was rapid. My will had been transferred to her and had left me. I moved in time to the gently rolling motion of her hips. Then she came with a powerful orgasm and started to beat her hands on my chest as she made sounds like a wounded puppy. She dropped her legs. Her eyes were closed. She slowly opened them and looked up at me and for the first time since I had touched her breasts on the living room couch, she entertained a smile. Her face turned to the left and she put her fingers to her lips, kissed them and then touched my lips. I was no longer a virgin.
We dressed quickly after that, not knowing when her mother would come home. She rapidly made the bed and the red bedspread once again resumed its familiar position covering the field of flowers and briars that we had trampled down. She looked at me one more time before we left the bedroom and said with her eyes “She won’t know. She won’t know. Let’s go.”
An alien spaceship is discovered under San Bruno mountain. The iconic sign is changed to “South San Francisco, The Extraterrestrial City.”
“Always wear comfortable shoes.” was the only good advice I ever received from my father and it served me in good stead for nearly seven decades.
Frankenstein & Myrrh: A Horror Christmas.
The more time one spends in airports, the less faith one has in humanity.
Seasonal affection disorder.
All my friends are imaginary.
The most important lesson I’ve learned: never throw away your fat clothes.
It had been rumored that late in the fall of 20xx, a book had appeared. While no specific facts could be gleaned, the rumor spread that its title was simply “Truth”.
We understand them perfectly but they have no understanding of us at all.
The fundamental difference between men and women: for most men, women are ends, while for most women, men are means.
The wealthier a person is, the more unfriendly, isolated, and unneighborly they tend to be.
The greatest truth in a dishonest society can be found in real estate prices.
Many of us carry in our heart our own Manderley, a burnt-out ruin of a love we yearn to return to but know we never can.
Imagine that we were all transparent and within us others could see a diorama of our own drama.
A family loses their dog in Yellowstone Park. The dog joins a wolf pack. Five years later they return and are attacked by the pack. The dog recognizes them and saves them.
A writer’s life: The Comma Sutures.
“If you believe anything a woman says, you might as well believe in astrology, mesmerism, tarot cards, and Billy Sunday.”
“It sounds like you’ve been hurt once too often.”
“Once too few my friend, once too few.”
He was a genius of a lesser kind.
A man loses everything except what is in an old storage unit. He must resume his life with only his possessions of twenty years before.
Words are radioactive.
Face the mountain and turn around.
The dreams of a couple in bed bounce back and forth between them.
Most of life consists of putting things into other things
What if the universe is simply God’s selfie.
I hope you’ve found this short excursion into my soul’s fallow field worthwhile. Even I do not know which seed will spring to life and which will decompose back into the alluvial soil perhaps providing the nutrients for a new growth to appear.