In March, accompanying my obsession with Aira and café writing, I started writing with a pen, in longhand into notebooks. Writing unplugged? And since the temperatures are warmer I sit in my garden each morning and write while drinking a pot of coffee from a new stoneware cup I collected on a recent trip to Louisiana. I’ve felt very little need to attend to my online writing in the last few months. In fact, I’m actively neglecting my digital persona which had become too fractured and fragmented over Tumblr, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, and a myriad of online soccer-related fora. I find, however, that I do write blog posts for Diary and for my soccer spectator blog, Footnotes, in my head while I’m doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, taking out the garbage, etc. I invent little posts and commentaries and file them away in my head, never bothering to write them down let alone post them. The world’s none the worse off for that oversight.
This morning I wrote in my garden, then I read the final chapter of César Aira’s How I Became a Nun. I would have finished reading the book last night, but I fell asleep. Tired from soccer practice which was really an informal kick-around with a few boys from my team and the other coaches. My body is still sore from the NSCAA course I took over the previous weekend. A muscle in my right leg was tweaked in such a way that it made my knee hurt. Play through the pain. The exercise is essential, especially when one wants to keep fit for those years that continue to advance, piling up and weighing a person down.
I mentioned that we went to Louisiana recently. The excuse was to visit family and to witness a spectacle staged by my sister-in-law at the New Orleans Museum of Art. My true purpose was to devote vast hours of the day to writing and reading, and that I did, rereading Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds (amongst other titles) and reading episodes from the 1922 original version of Ulysses. What I was writing was my “Bloomsday Book.” So reading Ulysses each day was essential while trying to record Rasan’s and my wanderings on Sunday the sixteenth of June, twenty-thirteen. I developed a taste for the literary life and complained to Alice that I didn’t know enough smart people. Smart here being defined as “liking the same sort of things that I like.” Smart people read translated literature, watch art films, and listen to piano jazz and are capable of talking about writers like Aira, Marías, Vila-Matas, Gombrowicz, and filmmakers like Tarkovsky, Rohmer, and Marker. In truth I’m an ignoramus about most things. Like what’s going on in the world. I follow soccer closely, but politics leaves me cold.
What color is your ivory tower?
On Sunday, I had an unexpected windfall. A few months ago, we’d made a particularly excellent batch of Fresh Hop Pils and delivered it to a craft beer place on the South Shore. This Fresh Hop Pils is really and truly tasty. A consequence of this is that it sold really well. And given that we had so little of it, we had no kegs left for ourselves. No Pils for the brewers! Well, the windfall is this: Some beer geeks (beer dicks?) went into this place on the South Shore and did some scratching and sniffing and convinced the bar owner that something was off in the beer. Reportedly these beer geeks (definitely dicks) found something amiss with the beer. What could I do? I gladly drove down on my Sunday “off” and replaced the “bad” keg of Fresh Hop Pils with something different – free of charge, of course. So in my possession, I have one unsellable keg of Fresh Hop Pils because it took these dicks a couple of gallons to arrive at their negative sensory evaluation. And a partial keg can’t be resold. Thus, tonight, I’m relaxing with a delicious glass of Fresh Hop Pils. Not a single flaw in the beer at all. Their loss. I feel sorry for the poor bar owner who is incapable of making his own judgements about the beer he sells.
After finishing up my work today, I had a long chat with Alice about what I should do this year. Not that I expected Alice to tell me, but I find it helpful to have a good chat and see if any of my crazy ideas make sense to anyone other than myself. What was rattling around in my head was the words “return on investment.” I’d read Christopher Dobens’ farewell post on his Total Footblog today. He’s throwing in the towel. He says writing about soccer hasn’t given him a good ROI. Basically, he’s not been able to monetize his labor and as a result has become alienated from his product. I know what he’s talking about. I’ve been in those shoes and they aren’t comfortable.
A few years ago, I started writing (blogging) about craft beer. I wasn’t all that interested in monetizing my efforts to maximize my ROI, as a result I spent a lot of time running around, drinking some excellent beer, visiting some really great breweries, brewpubs, and taprooms, and all I have to show for it is a protruding midsection. And some good memories too. Memories I’ve recorded in four “beer novels.” I asked Alice if I should just publish the other three and get it over with. First I published my Long Island Beer Guide and that sold about 150 copies. Good, I thought. I’ve got an audience. So I followed that up with my first beer novel, A Year in Beer, which flopped: 4 copies sold. I had to give the rest away to friends who were polite enough to not to refuse my offer. “You didn’t promote it,” said Alice. How could I promote it? I thought. I don’t have a self-promoting bone in my body.
“At least you could put a sample up on your web site,” she said.
Good idea, I thought. But how will people find it? (If you build it, they will… no probably not.) Despite my natural pessimism about ever finding readers in quantities which can be numbered on the fingers of more than one hand, I figured revamping the web site was long overdue in any case. So I got fair start tonight. Instead of reading, which is what I normally do on a Thursday night (when there isn’t an MLS match). Well, I’ll still read. With my glass of Fresh Hop Pils freshly topped up, I’ll reach for a good book. Probably a book about real football, the sort of football that isn’t played with the hands.
Mercifully spared from a hangover which by rights should have been my punishment this morning. If there are literary gods, they are smiling on me. Or perhaps the gods have sworn off vengeance in observance of some secret holy day. Today, they mete out kindness to the repentant sinner instead of deserved condemnation. Did the beer gods intervene on my behalf to reward my faithful devotion to the malt elixir? Why clemency today when cruelty has been my lot until today? Do not think that I am ungrateful.
Work went well this morning with two hours at the keyboard before breakfast. I have vowed to finish Discontent before starting any new projects. However, I don’t count the few minutes I spent doodling the schematic structure on the back of a piece of scrap paper of what may well be my next book. The structure looks something like a Celtic cross. New York is at the center of the circle — the location of the heart of the crucified propitiation for our sins. Quadrants. Four other cities. Paris and Dublin, most assuredly among the chosen. Two others…? Rome perhaps. The past. Athens?
Last week I saw that a number of people “liked” my posts. (Thank you.) As notifications of this being liked arrived in my inbox, I wondered how much I could invest in the spontaneous outpourings conferring awesomeness. Was I being read? Can one like without reading? I was tempted to write a line in my next post asking readers not to like my posts so that it will be only those who do not read my words who press the like button. Beware you likers of posts lest you out yourselves as non-readers.