Thursday, September 29, 2011

Some Big-Ass Rob Ideas

September 29, 2011—Orange, CA

A difficult week. I injured myself working out last weekend, which is really slowing me down. I felt a pop right where my back and left hip connect and have been barely able to move since then (I’m not sure whether to classify it as a back or hip injury). Teaching has been a drag because of this (so has getting to and from my campuses), and when I’m at home I’ve been pretty much bedridden. I’m still in a fair bit of pain, but the back/hip has loosened up a bit and I can get around better. I’ve had similar injuries before—they usually hurt like hell for about a week and then cause me discomfort for at least a few weeks after that. In other words, the whole thing sucks mightily.

I’ve been really busy too—lots of work for school. For next semester, I’ve been asked to teach a class in Native American cultures, which I’ve never done before. This is going to entail a massive amount of research to do right, research which I’ve already started. Add this to my normal workload, the reading I’m doing for the new cultural anthropology reader I’m putting together, and the stuff I’m doing to revive BSP and I’ve got a lot on my plate. Because of all this I don’t have much of a life at the moment. This will eventually wear on me, I’m sure. But right now I’m so into what I’m doing that I haven’t really noticed how narrow things have become (physically and emotionally, if not intellectually).

Still, I’m feeling good overall, happy about where I am in general in life. This happiness is coming most directly from the fact that I can really see where I’m going as a writer and how my work will tie (is tying) into the world around me.

Right now I have at least three books I see myself writing in the next few years, books that will be combining my literary interests with my studies of anthropology and ecology. I’m starting the third Backwaters book, and soon I will expand into non-fiction, which will mean the Greek book I’ve got planned, plus a book worth of essays that explore the philosophical and scientific underpinnings of my current fiction. What are these underpinnings? I’ve hit a place in life where I’m completely rejecting capitalism and even the idea of the nation state; both are institutions of totalitarianism, by definition. I also reject the idea of “growth,” as the term is generally used—more oppression in the name of “progress” and “improvement” that is in reality the destruction of the wild world and human socio-cultural systems in order that their components can be more easily exploited by a foolish few. I now realize that I am an anarchist in the way Thoreau was. This also makes me a conservative, in the sense that I’m actually interested in conserving things, such as our ability to live as free beings in a world where other creatures are allowed to do the same thing. I’m getting more radical in every way as I get older, as I learn more. But only radical in comparison to the radically strange and destruction cultural phenomena of our age, which are actually way out of line with the rest of human history. I am a radical only as a conservative counterpoint to the insanity of the permanent-growth economy and the corporate state. All this and much more lies at the roots of my fiction and will lie at the roots of my non-fiction. I am not an angry man, just one with increasingly clearing vision. I am a man who just wants to live a free wild life and take as many people with me on this journey who want to come along …

Big words. Big thoughts and ideas. Too big, feeling swamped by them. That’s why I write formally, so as not to drown in all I’m thinking, understanding, and feeling. Jesus, where’d all this come from? …

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chugging Along

Monday, September 19, 2011—Irvine, CA

I’m tired. And I have a headache, have had a headache off and on for days now. I’ve picked up sinus infection, which is not only giving me headaches, but messing with my vision; it’s been really hard to read, which is a bummer because that’s pretty much all I’ve been in the mood to do lately. There’s nothing I can really do about it, though, other than let it run its course. I’ve tried antibiotics on them before and they don’t help much, plus they make me feel like garbage in other ways. They also seem to lower my resistance, which means I get more sinus infections than I would if I just let my body fight them off. So that’s what I’m doing—toughing it out. If this one plays out like my previous sinus infections I can look forward to feeling crappy for at least another couple weeks (I’ve already been battling it for at least two weeks already).

Like I said, this sucks because I’m feeling really anti-social lately (or maybe it’s the sinus infection that’s making me feel this way) and want to do little besides get lost in books. Despite it being uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, I’ve still been doing a bit of reading, continuing with the Patrick Leigh Fermor book I’ve been working on, as well as some archaeology literature for school. Last night I also pulled the Richard Beringen’s collected poems off my shelf. When I first read him a few years ago I was quite impressed by his technical abilities and his erudition. His stuff didn’t really hit me on anything close to a gut level, though. I’m enjoying much more this time around (I planned on only reading a few poems and ended up reading thru the first sixty-five pages of the book). He really is good, clever, but not in negative way. He seems like a poet one needs to read thru multiple times to get a good understanding of what he’s about. I almost placed the book in my to-sell pile (I’ve been thinning out my library). I’m now really glad I didn’t let it get away.

Been working on some of my own stuff as well, editing mostly, not writing. I’ve finished the final edits of Edgewater, and now only formatting issues remain on that book. I hope to have it up to Eric for final formatting by next week. I still have to redesign the cover. Don’t know when I’ll find the time for that. I’ve also been going over Backwaters and Mother Earth again, fixing typos and doing some minor revisions that I think are really helping the books. Speaking of these novels, I’ve decided to give myself one year to find a publisher and/or agent for them. If I don’t I will put them out on BSP. I’m not thrilled by this, but they are the kind of books that could help build BSP. The publishing climate it so bad now that I’m afraid if I don’t have this backup plan I could end up having to sit on the manuscripts for years, which would be a tragedy—these works need to see the light of day. In fact, as soon a I’m done with the design work on Edgewater I’ll begin playing with book cover ideas for BWB and ME. I want then ready to go if and when the time comes. I Will be contacting my first English publisher this week, in regards to these books. Crossing my fingers. Expecting nothing, of course.

Not much else to report. Working, reading, and feeling shitty is pretty much all that’s going on. Exchanged an email with Steve about a possible Sacramento reading during Winter Break, assuming Edgewater is out by then. Hoping to do one in Santa Cruz too. A (very) mini Northern California reading tour.

Still feeling disconnected to my surroundings—my post-Greece alienation from this place isn’t going away. Trying to figure out what this means, what my next step is. Having stomach problems on top of my sinus issues. I was having all sorts of stomach issues before I left for Greece. Once I was there, though, most of them mellowed or went away (except my growing issues with dairy). Now they’re back a bit. I wonder if stress has anything to do with it? Just existing in Southern California these days is somewhat of a white knuckler. How much longer am I willing to deal with this increasingly stupid place?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fallow Period / Getting Reading for Something, Many Things ...

Thursday, September 15, 2011—Orange, California
It’s been a whole week since I’ve added an entry to this diary. This is because there’s really not all that much to report. Plus, I just haven’t been in the mood or had the time to write.
There have been a few developments in my life worth noting, though. I’ve been making some revisions to the Burning Shore Press site, getting it ready for when I relaunch the company with my first poetry book. It’s looking good, clean and to the point. Speaking of my poetry book, I think I’m going to redesign the cover. The one I’ve posted on the site looks OK, but I’ve decided I’m over photographs, especially black and white ones, as the focal point of my covers. I have an idea for a cover that harks back to those great concert posters of the sixties. I want to design it myself; I’ve got some ideas rolling around in my head that I know will work. I’ve also come to the conclusion that my poems, whatever their merits or faults, contain a lot of color—and I want the cover to reflect that. Besides, the current cover of me looking out over Long Beach from Signal Hill now looks a bit pretentious to me, a bit obvious too.

I’ve also started looking for more freelance writing jobs. Like I’ve said before, I want to be a free agent in life and writing is my only ticket to that goal. I’m just beginning this project, so I haven’t any successes yet. My hope it to find one new paying outlet for my work a month. Given how little time I have at the moment to pursue these jobs, this seems like a doable goal.

What else? Lately some very interesting ideas for the next Backwaters novel have been percolating to the top of my brain; the opening scene has begun forming in my mind. This is important because when scenes like this starting coming together it usually means I’m getting ready to start putting pen to paper, so to speak (actually fingers to the keyboard). For months I’ve had the basic story idea, but the details still feel very green for the most part, and my characters, including my first-person protagonist, are still a bit vague. Again, though, once scenes start forming clearly it’s the sign I’m getting ready to roll. It could happen anytime, next week, next month, a few months down the road. I’m not pressing it. Writing a novel is like childbirth—the thing will arrive when it’s ready, and not a second earlier (besides, I’m still a bit burnt out from my work on Mother Earth and am not yet in the mood to give the time and effort that its takes to dive into a long piece of fiction).
I do want to write, though. I have all sorts of ideas for essays, as well as short stories, which is an area I haven’t gone into much. There’s my Greek book as well, of course. But none of these ideas are quite ready to come out either. Some of them are close too, though. Once the flood gates open I could be a suddenly very busy man.

Still feeling good about most things overall. Anxious to get back to Greece even though it’s months away. Am still also feeling a bit alienated here. Long Beach, Southern California, simply doesn’t fascinate me like it used to. I feel as if I’ve given everything I have to this place and haven’t gotten anywhere near enough in return. I want to move on. It looks like the next stage of my life will take place in a new watershed, a new land. I hope a man in his forties can successfully learn a new language.

 Getting antsy to start my Greek language studies. Thinking of trying to pick up my French lessons again as well.

 Been reading a lot, culture theory stuff primarily, partially as research for school, partially just because it’s a part of what I do, who I am. Finishing up Fante, Dan Fante’s first memoir, which juxtaposes his life with that of his father’s, with alcohol, too many women, and writing being the connectors (unfortunately in that order). A good, if somewhat limited book (blackout drinking, fucking , and the [strangely under-described] redemptive power of the muse are all that Dan seems to be able to write about). Starting to tackle Patrick Leigh Fermor’s travel books. I’m only forty pages into the first one and really starting to get into it. I have also been rereading all of Gary Snyder’s essays. I’ve taken a break from that, though. Will probably pick them up again after I’ve finished with the Fermor books I have.

Not getting enough sleep. Early morning and night classes combined don’t mix. More budget cuts likely to be coming down the pipe. Wonder if I’ll soon be out of work or more likely seriously under employed. I’m not really worrying about this, though. Though I don’t know why, I can’t shake the feeling that the gods have my back on this sort of thing these days. Feeling a little special, magic, like some sort of destiny is looming on the horizon I'm more than ready to deal with.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Home / Not Home

Thursday, September 9, 2011—Orange, California

I got back from Greece slightly more than a month ago, was then thrown into prep for teaching almost immediately—I haven’t had time to evaluate the trip much. I have decided, though, that ‘m heading back there next summer. I’m now sure that writing a book on Crete and the Dodecanese is something I want to do. It’s become obvious, though, that last summer alone has not given me the perspective I need to do this, if for no other reason than I really haven’t visited much of the Dodecanese. Next trip I plan on flying into Patmos, the northern most island in the Dodecanese of any size (and the farthest north one with an airport) and then filter my way south thru the islands until I again reach Crete, somewhere near the end of my trip.

I want this trip to be different than the last trip. First off, next month I’m going to start teaching myself Greek. I don’t expect to become anything close to fluent before heading back, but I would like some sort of baseline to help me start picking things up once I’m there. I also plan a more rugged trip this time, lots of camping, of both the legal and not-so-legal variety. I’ve decided that I simply don’t want to spend money like I have in the past (in regards to Greece and my life in general). I really don’t need much in way of comfort and I don’t want to work my ass off to save money; I want to enjoy life while I’m here too—so it’s jam econo time for be in a big way. I’m thoroughly convinced that most people I know spend their money on things they don’t need or really even want; they’re just so conditioned by society to buy shit that that’s just what they do. I want to get off that train, am getting off it—I’m thoroughly sick of capitalism in all its forms …

Lots going on here. Besides the aforementioned school, I’m attempting to revive Burning Shore Press. Hopefully it will be putting out short-runs of Dan Fante’s Boiler Room and Edgewater, a book of my poetry, in the few months. I don’t want to have to out Backwaters of Beauty or Mother Earth thru them, but I want to bring BSP back to snuff in case I have no other choice. On that subject, I’ve been talking to a few fellow writers on the agent/publishing scene and things look pretty bleak—nobody is signing anybody. Thinking of trying to get a deal in the UK first. I have a bit of a name there and their publishers might be easier to break in with.

What else is going on? I've gone more or less vegan since coming back. I just don’t digest dairy well these days and not eating meat is making me both feel healthier and is saving me money. I was originally planning the vegan thing as a one-month cleanse after getting back from Greece, but a month has past and I’m in no hurry to start eating meat again, and, like I said, I can’t eat diary. So I plan on keeping on with my current diet for the foreseeable future. The only problem is that I’m getting skinny (even by my standards): I’m starting to look like Iggy Pop from the neck down.

Feeling less at home here in Southern California since getting back: too many people, too many rules, too much bullshit in general. I’m tired of living in the twilight of the American Empire; I’m tired of being of the country with plenty of bombs and no healthcare. I want something different, something smaller and more human. Maybe I won’t come back from Greece this time.

I’m also now becoming (even more) dissatisfied with teaching. I want to be a free agent. I just want to write. As soon as I get a better handle on this semester I’m going to start researching freelance writing opportunities; I’d like to start transitioning out of the college world as soon as possible. Starting in October I’m going to make it my goal to make just a little more money from writing each month. I’ve spent way too much of my life working for others and I’ know I’ll never be fully content until that has stopped. All this ties in with my no longer wanting to spend money. It’s all about freedom, of not giving away my precious dwindling time for dollars.

Despite the problems I’ve been writing about I’m feeling good, relaxed, fairly content—Greece really calmed me down. I can see my life shaping up in front of me, can where I’m going, just not how I’m going to get there. Enjoying the second part of this equation as much as the first: not knowing the exact path to freedom is a big part of the fun of becoming free (kind of pretentious sounding, but true).

What else? Lots of reading. A relationship I bailed out of just as it was getting started, no harm no foul, I hope. Just floating thru life at the moment—in the best sense. Making big plans. Letting the little ones take care of themselves.