Last night I was physically sickened by what I witnessed. I was at a local Mexican restaurant (El Maguey in Yorktown, IN) and the table a few feet over had a tall man with medium cheekbones and short hair ordering nachos. My ears perked to hear how he shaped his order, but he went straight menu, and that’s cool. A bit retro-just-to-be-retro but whatever. BUT when the nachos arrived he didn’t survey; he didn’t agitate (to let the flavor and aroma notes blossom) and waft; he didn’t even oscillate the plate to view the chords, arcs, tangents, and sectors of toppings/sauce distribution. He just grabbed a tortilla chip, from the inner circle, and then ate outward to the edges!
Amateurs, they spleen me. They make napkins fold in my brain. I felt like a baby anaconda was around my throat and squeezing.
This was like the time I was hunting in BFE Mississippi and this dude I’ll call J (for jackass) comes into the hunting cabin around 5 in the morning before our hunt and he sits down next to me and lights up a cigarette (ruining everyone’s masking scents) and places his gun (an obnoxious paramilitary .223) on the floor, propped onto a boot, thus aiming the barrel at my thigh area. I said, “Could you please watch your barrel?” And he said, “Huh?” This was the last time I hunted with J.
Or seeing someone not tip a roulette dealer.
Or the time I went to a party with Poet Laureate of the USA Robert Pinsky and it suddenly dawned on me: They are only serving lemonade. (As you’ve noted by now, I am going to try to drop as many literary names as possible. It feels powerful. Like dropping lint into an extinguished sea, on the moon.)
People, do you want your chips crisp or soggy? Your toppings blended into Mozart, or clumped into a mushy mosh-pit of discord? Do you want to experience your meal; or simply shovel from a trough while kneeling in a mud of bat droppings and spoiled guacamole?
Listen: In the name of chef Ana Isabel Garcia Morena of La Villa Bonita, eat your nachos from the perimeter in! Use the chips with the least topping as a sampling utensil for the area with the most. I don’t even care if you go major or minor arc (that’s a personal choice, and most likely depends on whatever topping you prefer), but never, ever start eating from the centre of a nacho circle (I am assuming a circular/oval shape here–this particular blog post limits itself to western nacho prep and serving practices. I might address other countries and their nacho presentation in later scribblings).
Anyway, I’ll move on. I didn’t even have nachos due to a person at my table and their medical condition. I won’t get into details because the person might read this blog and they once hit me on the forehead with a shoe and also medical conditions are ethically/legally taboo for a public space.
Michael Kimball interviewed me yesterday. He’s going to write my life story for his postcard project. I think I could spend nine years reading these postcards about people. I read their lives and feel happy and sad and sorry and jealous and then just human. A keen experience, the phone interview; and Kimball is a calm, soothing, good guy. As I told him, “Thanks. Everyone likes to talk about themselves.” I’m looking forward to reading Kimball’s new novel, Dear Everybody.
One cool thing he told me was that his first novel was rejected 119 times, and then published in England. This made me glow. My manuscript (one of two) has been rejected maybe eight times and was finalist for the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction, and I still feel gloomy. What I should do is tighten it once again; and send, send, send…
I went to school with a writer named Tommy Z. This under the sweet magnolias, at the world’s second best MFA program. At Bama, you had your publishing peeples and your-no-interest-in-publishing peeples. Bama was odd that way, very competitive at times (for in-house awards and outside prestige–we even had a giant board that posted student’s achievements in your face); and I have heard some writers say they wish they had never published at that stage of their careers–or at least felt so pressured to. But Tommy was one publishing-ass dude. The man could write and get that writing out in the world. The point of this aside is that Tommy Z once sent a short story out 54 times!!
It was eventually published in Carolina Quarterly. I can’t find it. Here’s another by Tommy over at storySouth.
Writer’s Block is BS, and dangerously close to the most useless/insidious emotion in the world: self pity. Maybe I don’t suffer because I mostly write drivel? Maybe better writers have an argument? Well, either way, your problems are over, as I give you:
SIX THINGS YOU COULD/SHOULD DO IF YOU HAVE WRITER’S BLOCK
1.) Write about the Writer’s Block. Here’s one from the grand old man of drunken post office whoredom, of Hollywood horse track, of scars, of Hemingway hangover, of sexism, alcoholism, other -isms, of not-so-much-into big words, of passing out behind couches and urinating in planters and also he once got lost in the woods and stumbled upon a river and then a dam and actually turned on a giant dam release valve by accident thus releasing metric tons of water and that was actually funny:
from my bed
on a telephone
one is left,
my typewriter is
and I am
reduced to bird
just thought I’d
When my students read Buk, at least one will say, “I could write that.” And I always reply, “Go right ahead.”
2.) Go to a quality lit mag online (like Cella’s Round Trip). Read everything. Now drink one beer, preferably something Germanic. Now try to write one true word. If this doesn’t work, repeat the process until you pass out write at least one true word. Maybe the word nacho.
3.) Freud often complained of writer’s block (“I’m tied up inside”), so you might be seriously screwed. If the father of psychoanalysis can’t figure out what is blocking his own creative flow, I doubt anyone else will solve your own malaise. You might want to consider an easier hobby, like sand wrestling.
4.) You could always blog. This is writing. Then again, it could take from your actual serious work, acting as an enabler. So you blog, feel good about it, and trick yourself into thinking: “Well, I did write today.” This entire line of thought is making me uncomfortable.
5.) The Muse lives in the mouth of a dog. It is the type of cur you see walking highway shoulders in Mississippi. If you track down this dog, and find a way to safely place your hand into its mouth, your writing block days are over.
6.) Steal this from me and say you wrote it (I stole it from someone so don’t get all uptight): A silverish moon and a car pulling up. A description of the gravel. And then out steps a young woman with perfumed hair, holding a hatchet, or a cherry blossom. Depends on the poem. The man sits on a sagging green couch, head in his hands, and says, “You never had this kind of conviction when we were together.” Fade out to clouds, their snow banks piling. An owl limps o into o the sky.
There is a No Colony literary journal coming soon! The cover is scary and somehow reminds me of The Sound of Music. In this issue!!
Nick Antosca (once billowed; does again)
Daniel Bailey (knows David Letterman)
Jesse Ball (is a better poet than you)
Ken Baumann (wrestles the Soviets)
Matt Bell (sends me free books)
Ryan Call (grips a small cleanness about him)
Jimmy Chen (Oscar Wilde on Whipped Cheese)
Kim Chinquee (you can not have a lit mag without her, dude)
Giancarlo DiTrapano (rummage)
Brian Evenson (ogle, gape–controversial dude!)
Brandon Scott Gorrell (see him shellfish, see him glee)
Jac Jemc (bolts of oak)
Shane Jones (does things with video games u wish u could)
Sean Kilpatrick (try to drive in an arctic glare, my friends)
Michael Kimball (is undergoing knee surgery right now)
Tao Lin (early in the morning)
Robert Lopez (…)
Josh Maday (will one day understand nachos)
Miranda Mellis (rhymes with blur)
Sam Pink (coffins are mentioned)
Matthew Simmons (on TV)
Justin Taylor (lightning bolts down the chimney)
J.A. Tyler (mud mud mud)
Brandi Wells (soulful)
Derek White (fried octopi. Please publish me book.)
John Dermot Woods (once worked with me at a Memphis produce store)
Mike Young (guides readers)
Why Won’t You Dance??
Today I prepped for my Fiction Workshop class 307 at BSU, home of Letterman and flowers and also a great education that will benefit your lifestyle.
Here is the reading list:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Flaming Iguanas by Erika Lopez
Wild Sheep Chase by by Haruki Murakami
Deliverance by James Dickey
Then also a Flash Fiction anthology because my students will bleed Flash Fiction once I am done.
I decided to add Sam Pink to my blogroll today. Sam Pink has a better name than us. Sam Pink is a Glamazon. Sam Pink once played poker with a tattooed lady. Sam Pink is calm. Sam’s way with cats. Cats curl up against Sam; purr as Sam strokes their ears—that tells you something about a person. Animals know things. Another thing I like are Sam’s boots, python skin. Other things: Sam knows how to make homemade pizza. Knows how to select a tuxedo. How to tie a bowtie. On location together, during months of filming, Sam never asked if I missed my family. The veins in Sam’s forearms. The scar below Sam’s left nipple. The way Sam can name birds by their song. The way Sam doesn’t mind, or even comment, when I throw plates or silverware into the fireplace, into the fire. The way Sam curses, rarely, so with meaning. The way Sam teaches me stud poker, without belittling, and with no apologies when Sam wins. Sam eats potato chips and caviar in the same meal. Sam’s belly button is basically perfect. Sam can ride a horse. Sam can be angry. Sam can be silly. One day Sam entered my dressing room with a rope, an actual braided rope, lassoed me around the waist, pulled me close, gave me a bear hug, and whispered in my ear, “Now don’t tell anyone, but Sam Pink really is just a simple cowboy.”
But I like the poetry and blog. So TRY.