Free Writing

And there was play–great amounts of pleasure in the dirt and pavement of the alley. Immense imagined baseball games and championship marble championships. Handball on the side of the garage and stolen bases and snagged line drives and stolen home runs.  Massive climbs and maneuvers over the back fence and over the back concrete wall and the Abuelito’s shed. The tools always made the best imagined lances and weapons–machine guns in the wrenches and climbing tools in the hammers.

And the Jefe paid no mind–he had the business of the old Ford and the old truckito. The grind of pulling his massive cars onto ramps and changing the oil–checking the points and sometimes changing the spark plugs. Finding the right size wrench for the oil filters and spark plugs.

And even in Lolo’s day there were Tios to distract. Older men who hung out and hung back while the Jefe worked on the cars. Tios who filled the alley with smoke and drink. Men like Metedio and his lazy way of treating the day. He stole bottles of beer and stole shots of rum or whatever he could get his hands on from the Jefe.

And Metedio dressed like a hipster Chicano they way they all did in those days–dark glasses and white t-shirts. Sometimes a guayaberra or a short sleeved bowling shirt–cigarette behind his ear and a pack in the pocket over his immense heart. And Tio would feel for the kids who had nothing but the alley. He brought them bags of marbles and bags of army men from the liquor store. He gave them empty containers of chew for their imagined hockey matches and garden tool slap shots under the back fence. He brought them RC Colas and sometimes he brought them candy or gum–if the kids were real lucky he had handfuls of baseball cards or bottle caps.

In his truckito he brought cardboard boxes and empty buckets from job sites and from his work at the steel mill. He was a plumber working for the State Hospital and sometimes he had the remains of a day’s work andd let Lolo and the foster kids turn those items into pirate ships and space ships–they used them as turrets and bases for their endless games of war. Once he brought them a found basketball and a container of tennis balls the kids used for baseball games in the alley and the sad little crew of Lolo and Black Ricky and No-Name Lucero from down the street (he got that name because the Jefe couldn’t remember his name for the life o fhim or so the joke went and the name stuck.)

One sunday while the Jefe changed spark plugs Tio Metedio helped the kids fashion swords and shields from the cardboard he brought. They used his immense knife and wire cutters to turn small nail buckets in to armored helmets and masks. He had grease pencils from work and the kids drew their own crests and family names. Lolo had a horse and falt lines which he said represented the llano of New Mexico where his Tia lived and the rest of the crew had their battles and duels all afternoon up and down the alley. They even dressed up Metedio in his own suit of cardboard and bucket armour. He looked like a Frankenstein and robotic moving monster and the kids all screamed and ran around him. They fought him for waht seemed like horus until he collapsed under the back tree to the blows and lashes of the children. The kids had so much energy and anger to release on him for no fault of Metedios.

Lolo found he skinned his knees and ripped up his jeans and so did a lot of the crew. No-named Lucero ripped his lip and had blood down his already stained white t-shirt and was just about crying. They were finishing up a pretty lucrative battle when the Jefe screamed for his tools and for his wrenches–some sort of bucket he needed for his oil changes. Poor RIcky was wearing the bucket as his backside armour and Metedio had clipped a hole in it to tie the makeshift armour around and over the boy;s shoulders.

Jefe screamed at the kids and at his wife’s brother and ripped the bucket from Ricky;s back–called him names and slapped the boys butt with the same blow and intensity the children had in their battles until the little crewcutted boy cried and went on looking for his foster-jefita…

Kerouac’s Aesthetic

on-the-road2I could go on all day about my love for Kerouac–the first time I found his books but you get the idea. Anyway I’ve been reading his Belief and Technique for Modern Prose as well as his collected notebooks Penguin published last year and I am continually amazed at his obsessions. Hugo says that’s what we pick up first–we notice other writer’s obsessions and they perhaps give us insight to our own. I think Kerouac’s obsessions are for the writing itself–he is possessed with the idea of being a writer. In all of his notes there is never a hesitation to call himself a writer. His work ethic is indomitable.  

Other obsessions of course are with the country and with travel and with capturing and remembering–turning the everyday into folklore of the self–all in the daily practice of writing.

Of course spontaneous prose and the idea of not censoring one’s expression. I like the debate in Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch between the Ginsberg character and the Kerouac character. Ginsberg was a relentless reviser of work nd Kerouac wanted to sit and get it down–I know some writers like that. I find myself taking on both points of view–take it as it comes or form it up constantly.

Anyway I love his ideas on his own personal aesthetic:

  1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy
  2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
  3. Try never get drunk outside your own house
  4. Be in love with your life
  5. Something that you feel will find its own form
  6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
  8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
  10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
  11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
  12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
  13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
  15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
  16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
  17. Write in recollection and amazement for yrself
  18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
  19. Accept loss forever
  20. Believe in the holy contour of life
  21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  22. Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better
  23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
  24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  29. You’re a Genius all the time
  30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven  

Self Publishing and the Question of Literary Quality and Audience

An old student of mine from last term was in the office and we were discussing the possibility of a student writing club and publication and he asked me an interesting question. He asked: What does every writer want for their work? He answered before I could–publication.

I think of this idea more and more as a failed writer. Well, because what makes a writer failed? Is it lack of time to write or lack of inspiration in terms of story? I have plenty of stories to tell and lately I have been writing–free writing but writing none-the-less and that doesn’t seem to be the problem. My Cornbread Project is up to 135 pages and I do see a sort of way out of that narrative–I won’t say ending but I will say way out. That is sort of the way I look at it.  So I don’t think that is what makes me a failed writer.

Well, then, is it the ability to self-revise or to look at the work objectively. Well, I have just spent the last hour revising the Highland Stories and I have those mailed out all over–and I think  that is a solid book. Or at least solid in the sense that that is the level of work I am capable of. I mean I looked at it pretty objectively and roughly and I am fairly certain I have ripped as much out as I possibly can in terms of flat or stilted narrative. I can honestly say–this is as good as I got.  And D reminded me just how much work I have put in to the Huerfanos Project and until I reread that I’m nout sure if this is true but I feel that is as strong as I got. So perhaps that is not what makes me failed–I still have a lot of editing to do to the Cornbread Project though.

So I guess it has to be the sense that I am not getting my work out there as much as I possibly can. And I have seen so many people in the local news celebrating publication and yet when I click a few clicks on the computer I get to the screen or website that tells me they self-published. Tracy Daugherty and his editor had pretty strong thoughts on that and peronally I am not certain what to make of it. I want to be accpeted by a small press and given some sort of validation from an editor. Some sort of reading apart from me and D. Some sort of readership though as I write and think of it I don’t  consider the reader too much. And the Rimbaud letters and movies I watch remind me of the strong feeling he ha about publiction–it still sounds good even if it is from the mouth of Leonardo DiCaprio. Rimbaud says–Nothing matters but the work; everything else is just literature.

So when I see a writer self publishing and going on about readings and book signings–I am left with this question of literary quality and audience. Follow the link to see what I mean–he is a genre writer but the idea still stands.

I think what also might make me a failed writer is that I cannot imagine who would want to read about Manito or about Lolo–other than me and my uncle. Maybe my sister. The Grandfather doesn’t know how to read or at least that is his joke. They could understand a film I guess and I do have dreams of taking my camera and quitting my job and making a film to edit on my computer–and when I say dream I mean a literal dream where I do it in Colorado and have no worries of bills or anything–but I digress.

So, is self publishing realy publishing. Tracy Daugherty’s editor told a group of stuents if the book isn’t reviewed and if there aren’t smaller publications that add up for the collection–well it might be better to write a novel which is why I wanted to write a novel instead of another collection of short stories. And now the Cornbread project has turned into another novel–a longer, more in-depth story than shorter sprints.

And I do know the history of beginning new presses and D’s son is a musician and created his own label to put out his music which is so crafted and beautiful music. But in the music or musician world I guess it is just more accepted that you put out your own cd than to put out your own book.  That is just how you get people to hear–again this question of audience. I wonder who D’s son imagines will purchase his music–or does he think a bigger label will pick it up? Or is it all for the experience and validation of getting your stuff out there? And there are tools to get your music onto ITunes and the like and I am sure that is what he is following.

I’m sure this question of publishing and literary quality will go on as I write and work–and I read an article in the State Journal Register here in Springfield that takes on a harsh position against self-publishing and if I can find it I will comment more on this soon.

PS–Sent out the Highland Stories to Black Lawrence Press.

Free Writing

(Voices seem to want to take this Cornbread story to a weird place.)

A lifetime of bad thoughts followed those few days with Romes. I hear his voice over and over again in my dreams. I’ve heard them for 15 years. Years later living in New York State, California and then Oregon I hear his new found wisdom of that summer. I sweat and turn while he talks to me–over and over again in my goddammed mind. 

You fucking pussy, he says. I told you to make a move on Bea years ago. She was all yours and now she’s fucking tainted and shit. Goddamm nemesis of the family has fucked her.

What?

I told you to be a fucking man and now look. She’s lost it to that fucking Rudy Montoya and you can’t do a damn thing about it.

I didn’t want to fuck her, Romes.

Too late now. You’ll never know what you wanted.

I know. I know, Romes.

But she’s been with other men, cabron. So don’t feel too bad.

What?

I hear she fucks guys.

Who’s she been with Romes? Who?

Adolfo. The guy down at ben’s bike shop.

Adolfo. No shit.

And the kid down at Bessemer Pool. The fuck that cleans the pool and works for the Park’s Department. You know, the whetto.

Bartechi?

Yeah, that’s his name. He drives out to the park with her in his park’s truck.

Fuck you, Romes.

I just hear she fucks guys, Manito.

Lolo and Cornbread told me to watch her. Practically fucking begged me. but I had shit to do. I was working. Mowing lawns and making bank for college.

You went in for 6 months. That couldn’t have helped.

That was your fault, fucker. You and your fucking ‘rides’ out to New Mexico and with your fucked up friends. I was working too.

What? Shit. Your little mowing jobs. Fuck that ain’t work. The Abuelito worked in the Coke Plant for 42 years.

It was work, Romes. I was working.

I’m just saying. You should have gotten her some more money and gotten her the hell out of this neighborhood. Out of that house on Spruce. I got out. I did it.

What the hell, cabron, I say. Did you want her to join the Army. She’s only 15. I’m only 16. I was only 16.

You know that was what killed him?

Who?

Montoya, fucker. The whole point of this shit. You read the newspapers. Obituaries and shit. Don’t you research it all. You have all the answers. Hell, you probably narced him out. You probably called.

Called who?

Baca, cabron. Ain’t you following this narrative or whatever.

I thought you did it. I thought you called him.

I didn’t do it. I was married and ran out of town that month. I had my own shit. Armenda married me and then she was pregnant. Bun in the oven, Manito. My daughter was on the way. 

Who ratted Bea out then, Romes? Tell me, Romes? I have to know. Bea would never tell me. We never talk about it. You know everything, Romes. I don’t have anything about all this.

Ask your Tio. Ask your Tio, Manito. Ask him. He’ll tell you. Follow him around in your mind. You love him so much and think of him so much. He’s got all the answers for you.

PS: Submitted Farmhouse in the Lanes to the Missouri Review.

Naked Lunch and the Addiction of Writing

Yesterday I obsessively watched David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch and found the film not to be about the bookas much as entirely about Burroughs and all of his writing–it seems as if scenes were taken from every short story and novel–Naked Lunch and Queer.

I was particularly interested in the scenes witht he writing machines as bugs or focuses of addiction. I was amazed at how the dirctor–and of course Burroughs–sees language or writing as a disease or addiction. The conflict came from the lack of typing machine or loathing of particular bug-like typing machine. Now that I think of it there were kinds of writing or word machines inthe film–British and American. At one point Bill Lee trades in his gun at a pawn shop for a typewriter and so I satarted to think of all the machines I have had. I remember using the Abuelitos old type writer for high school papers and also for college papers when I went away to school. I bought an electric typewriter back in the day until I bought a clone computer the size of a dresser. Then I had a Mac laptop that was given to me at work until finally a Dell laptop. I have always been lugging something around to bang words off of.

I was interested because I have a typing machine in every room of the old apartment now and at work and in all the classrooms I work in. I wonder what Burroughs is trying to tell us about the sensuality and the viscerality of words and language and how we possibly fetishize our own complex reading and writing–to the point of self destructive addiction. The creative literacy feeding on itself.

In this scene, Bill Lee seems to be introducing drugs to author Jane Bowles and having some sort of shared experience with drugs and writing.

PS: I sent out Farmhouse in the Lanes–to TinHouse– and Rabbit Story–to Glimmer Train.

Failed Free Writing

When Lolo was 8 years old he told the Jefita that he was going to go downtown and get a tattoo of dragons and dinosaurs to his arms and his back–maybe centipedes and millipedes and creeping crawling monsters to his back and legs. Perhaps bats and scorpions wrapping around the arm and his unusually small neck. He saw a man at the State Fair working the rides with similar patterns and he immediately wanted the coverings and envisioned immense inked skulls and fire demons to his neck and shoulders. In his coloring books he chose the colors and he chose the body parts drawing and coloring in biceps and torsos with immense patterns of gore and depth. His mind swimmed in those colors.

The Jefita gasped and told her youngest son that if he wanted to break his mother’s heart then to go right ahead–but he would have to wait until far after her death. And his father’s death–and possibly the death of all his Tias and most of the comadres from around Spruce Street.

She held him in her wide arms as he struggled to get away–he reminded her that the Jefe had tattoos. Marine tattoos on his both of his forearms. The Jefe never held Lolo the way his mother did but Lolo studied those tattoos and used them in arguments with the Jefita on a daily basis. The eagle and the Marine Corpse insignia to each arm that danced as he flexed his arms were the only evidence to the boy that his father had left the old neighborhood before he was conceived and killed men as in the movies or on the television. The ink was faded and contained no creatures but Lolo wanted them just the same–to the young Lolo that was the mark of a man. That was what men did and what they wore. To Lolo and the other round faced brown skinned boys–around Baystate and Box Elder streets–the unpaved streets down by the highway where the boys rode their bikes and wrestled and played massive tournaments of marbles and wrestling–tattoos were what made you hard and what showed you were a man. That and finding scorpions and spiders and even snakes. These were the things–tattoos and scorpions–little 8 year old Lolo associated with being a man.

Failed Free Writing

I’ve seen pictures of the Abuelita before she met the Abuelito. The day she moved out to Colorado from New Mexico and changed her life. I’ve seen the pictures of her in blue jeans and sitting on top of the Tio’s 39 Hudson. Her jeans are folded up exposing just a bit of leg and Her hair is long and her black and white skin is young and fresh. Short sleeves on a hot summer day–keeping still for the camera and for the conversation of summer and the front yard.

the-abuelita

In those pictures the old neighborhood has promise and has the look of wood and trash pit–brick and mortar wonder. I can close my eyes and go there when I have dreams. The neighborhood and those images stick in my head–waiting to be caught by the camera–to be trapped in my memory.

She looks so far from herself. She doesn’t have the weight of ‘that man’ to her and she doesn’t havethe eyes of the neighborhood on her as she would soon find. Before the shame and the bruises and the arguments. Before she was ashamed to speak only spanish and before she found her need for cigarettes and before my father and before the Lolo or Ricardo. Before the steel mill meant anything to her and before she had her own work at Dundee Cleaners. Before the sister was lost to her and before she crossed that line into marriage and into keeping a house.

Failed Free Writing

The men could not resist gathering in the backyard on warm summer nights and into the mornings the call to play their poker. The neighborhood was an immense gambling neighborhood. ‘Their poker’ was how the Abuelita described it–as if she wanted nothing with the sessions. I’m sure she felt this way because of the drinking and the yelling. I’m sure she felt this way because of the loud voices carrying down the alley into other family’s windows and kitchens. There were marathon matches going on for hours. The Abuelito and Lolo playing for 12 hours and 18 hour sessions. And the games attracted so many men from the neighborhood.

There was Robert Garcia the steelworker and Chapulin his best friend and the son, Nacho. Sometimes my cousin Kiko and his friend Fatso and then old man Hernandez and his bankroll. All the men played and laughed despite the main object of the games which was to steal the other man’s bank roll. That was the main attraction of these sessions.

In my mind these sessions have turned into legend. The time Robert Garcia went out to his car to find his Saturday Night Special police issued pistol after losing all of his money in order to bet. I remember how he emptied the piece of bullets and then dropped it down onto the middle of the Abuelita’s makeshift picnic table. The time Kiko bet his motorcycle and lost it to my Tio Lolo and the two almost went toe-to-toe in the alley when Lolo tried to collect. The time Chapulin lost all of his money down to his leather boots and kept borrowing more and more money from anyone around him so he could win back his rent money–he was so crazed he wouldn’t let any of the men leave with his money and so they played for hours and hours and were still playing in the late morning when I woke to mow my lawns in the neighborhood. The time Lolo woke me up in the middle of the night to borrow my money from the hiding place in the concrete foundation in the basement. I remember as he puleld the money he told me, You gotta make your bets with faith and then pull them over on them all fake, Manito. he also told me how I had to take care of my Tio because I had no one else in this world.

There also was the time the chojas pulled up following up on a call of the noise and the music coming from the back yard well into the morning hours. The Abuelita was on the porch in her nightgown and crying for the chojas not to take her husband from the house. She pleaded and begged with the uniforms and the flashing lights. She cursed and she spit–she smoked a cigarette and held her hands and forearms. Nothing good comes from these damn poker matches, she thought to herself. These cabron men, she thought.