Watch Closely

Magician misdirects with a flourish, steals your watch.

Trump misdirects with a spectacle, steals your watch.

Moral: Keep your eye on the watch.

More specifically, whenever he invites Kanye to Trump Tower, stacks mystery files next to his podium, or belittles a giant of the Civil Rights Movement, pay closer attention to what he’s actually doing while you’re distracted.

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The One True Problem

“There is only one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide.

Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental problem of philosophy.

All the rest — judging whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer.

And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims, that a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example, you can appreciate the importance of that reply, for it will precede the definitive act.

These are facts the heart can feel; yet they call for careful study before they become clear to the intellect.”

— Albert Camus

P.S. I’m fine, and not at all suicidal. But this quote, this question, came to me many years ago and became a focusing point of my life thereafter. It may have saved my life, in fact, or at least saved it from being wretched. There are facts the heart can feel.

How to Write a Novel

  1. Accept you’re not like other people, then develop excessive wonder and shame — preferably both — about this condition.
  2. Obsess over the world’s brokenness until you glimpse how it works, and maybe how it’s not completely broken after all.
  3. Explain your feelings to people. Fail badly.
  4. Recognize that no good explanations are possible, but that stories can convey things in mysterious, irrational ways that are similar to occult magic.
  5. Think of an original story that will not merely become a bestseller, but will profoundly affect the hearts of millions of readers.
  6. Understand that no story is original.
  7. Understand that being killed by lightning, while simultaneously being eaten by a lion, is more probable than writing a bestseller.
  8. Understand that profoundly affecting the heart of one reader, even if that reader is yourself, is a dynamite goal.
  9. Get excited! You’re writing a novel!
  10. Continue writing after the first few days, when the early excitement dies and you need to animate 50,000-150,000 words into a strange, living thing.
  11. Fail badly six days out of seven, for seasons or years.
  12. If that one good day out of seven fills you with a deep, crazy joy that prevents you from quitting both the story and your life, right on!
  13. Doubt that day.
  14. Doubt the story.
  15. Despise yourself and despair, and don’t talk to anyone for a while because of your embarrassment, and consider a proper job like cutting lawns.
  16. Finish the novel.
  17. Rewrite and revise until everything feels perfect. Don’t cheat. It has to be perfect.
  18. It’s not perfect. It’s nowhere close to perfect.
  19. When the novel is done, survive everything that comes next — submission, agents, editors, reviews, readership — by emotionally divorcing yourself from the cherished work and writing something frighteningly new.
  20. Accept you’re not like other people, then develop excessive wonder and shame — preferably both — about this condition.

Imaginary Bike Tour: Day 3

Yesterday I took a rest on the bike tour because my legs hurt.

I’d expected my muscles to be sore after riding 60 miles in two days on a stationary bike, but they weren’t, which indicates I’m not grievously unfit. Instead the hurt was where my legs rubbed against the seat.

One time a friend of mine ran a marathon, and the gentle abrasion of safety pins holding his number to his shirt caused his nipples to bleed by the time he reached the finish line. It looked like water-color stains running down his chest.

My legs weren’t anywhere close to that bad, but I needed a break.

Today I rode another thirty miles, which got me from Palenville to Big Indian, NY.

Big Indian is named after a Munsee named Winneesook, who was seven feet tall and was known to locals as “Big Indian”. He was shot to death for his involvement in a love triangle.

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For Obama

I wanted to post this song in honor of President Obama. It’s a folk cover of a song originally by R. Kelly.

But then I thought, “This feels off, honoring our first black president with a white guy’s version of a black man’s song.”

Then I remembered R. Kelly’s sex scandal, which directly echoes the emerging scandal of president-elect Trump.

And then I wondered if my subconscious had somehow orchestrated that coincidence when I was choosing a song, because the subconscious is remarkably subtle. It’s like R. Kelly wrote a zeitgeist song for this one particular night.

But forget all that. Tomorrow I’ll dwell on our president-elect’s lack of character, weak chin, and widening stain of dishonor.

Tonight I’ll dwell on President Obama:

I’m that little bit of hope
With my back against the ropes

Long live the chief.