i keep returning to the beautiful scene you painted for us, murph, strolling our childhood haunts with ben at dusk, the dozing infant’s feet, the am radio on low. was it <quote-01>dusk?<quote-01> i’m unsure, but that’s how i picture it. i return to the scene here, however, for reasons other than its beauty. man, you know how to live, hoke commented. i bristled. <quote-02>so what, i don’t?<quote-02> i thought. is knowing how to live murph’s job?
how pathetic the thought made me feel. i’m reminded of dostoyevsky’s underground man, although i cringe at the comparison. don’t bring him into these letters, i say to myself, and again i hear his unsavory persona in my head: i will leave him in precisely because i want to take him out. if it’s a poor choice, so be it; only let me be the one who made it.
who can breathe under the weight of such compounding resentment? this is certainly no way to live.
one might rather follow larry david’s example and open a spite store. it’s nice to have a new season of curb to watch. i can picture the underground man dining at tiato’s, taking bitter pride in having been sat in the ugly section. it’s just old men behaving like <quote-03>fourth graders<quote-03>, sarah has said in disparagement of the show. exactly, i affirm with delight.
while less serene than your neighborhood stroll, i found your last entry similarly engaging, murph. what an occasion this virus has presented us with, and how well you seem to be rising to it. my daily routine, by contrast, has basically remained the same; it’s my perspective that has shifted, my prospects that have so drastically changed. who knows when restaurants will reopen or when television production will start back up? i think about how i’ll be a father soon regardless and end up feeling like a real <quote-04>failure<quote-04> the majority of the time, like a real loser.
i go for walks when i need to get out of the house--substitute cooper for ben and a friend on the phone for dodger radio. i had a long talk with michael last week. i told him about the pool incident with lane and about my back pain the following day. zero chance the pain wasn’t stress induced, michael said with confidence. i wonder if he isn’t right. if so, it’s a frightening prognosis. how am i supposed to track what is unexpressed? sure, i feel fine now, but maybe tomorrow will prove that today i wasn’t fine at all.
i haven’t gotten to the maugham story yet. i started into the copy you gave me, murph, but reading it after you’ve marked it up isn’t gonna work for me. i’ll need to grab a fresh one. i haven’t been able to read much these last couple <quote-08>weeks anyway<quote-08>. i can’t seem to settle my mind.
i put in a few hours on the guitar this afternoon, working out some tunes casey and i are planning to record. it felt nice to lose myself in the playing, to be guided by the momentum of inspiration. when the creation so fully changes the creator, which is more deserving of our veneration, i wonder.
i’m thinking about opening an instagram account for nickcasey. i dread the thought, but you gotta go where the people are, right? we’ve been recording songs, just the two of us, during off-hours at one of casey’s bars, using a single mic setup for sound and an iphone for video. a cinematographer friend on mine helped us set up the shot, installing a few lights and whatnot.
it’s taken us a little while to learn how to play to the mic. the first few sessions we didn’t get anything, but now that we’re more comfortable, we’ll sometimes get multiple takes in rapid succession. the first tune i’d like to post was captured on a rainy day, and just as we were finding the right approach to the tune, an overhead vent began noisily dripping water onto the hardwood floor.
considering the aesthetics of the video--black and white, retro mic, backlit suited figures, stools upside down on the bar--i didn't mind the subtle sounds of heat pipes creaking or trucks passing by outside; they contributed to the atmosphere. the leak, however, was a glaring distraction. we had to divert the water somehow, get it to silently flow instead of drip. casey found some twine, and we rigged a system whereby the water would travel silently down the twine, joining an accumulating pool at the bottom of a bucket. the bartender was scheduled to arrive in a half-hour to begin her shift, and in those last thirty minutes we got a take.
listening back to tunes in light of the virus has been interesting. lyrics that too directly reference current events, irrespective of when they were written, feel wrong to me. these subjects are in the forefront of people’s minds; why tell the listener what they already know? although, as with anything, i suppose it depends on how it’s <quote-05>done<quote-05>.
like knowing how to live.
style is the answer to everything, wrote <quote-06>bukowski<quote-06>. was it the fear of lacking style that caused me to hear hoke’s comment the way i did? it’s certainly possible. still, i’m reminded of the underground man--no shortage of style there.
i’m remembering an afternoon last fall when i watched a man prepare to eat a pizza at archie’s. hoke, you’ll remember archie’s from your last visit. murph, you’ll remember the archie’s logo from our seattle trip. what’s that on your shirt? you asked when i joined you at the river. a dog with pizza eyes! i exclaimed. you chuckled at the appropriateness of such a silly t-shirt on a wuck.
but back to this man:
it’s the middle of the afternoon, and i order a grinder to go. a few seats down from me at the bar there’s a guy around my age, similar dad-bod, shorter, probably works in tech. he’s nursing a pale beer, and he’s got the red pepper flakes in front of him, the parmesan, the garlic powder, the oregano, the spicy oil--the whole works, all lined up. he’s got a paper plate and a folded paper towel just off to the side. the kitchen bell rings, and the bartender returns with a large pepperoni and sausage pie. here the napkin goes in the collar, the beer gets another sip (a sip, mind you, not a swig--this guy’s no swigger of beer), and he commences easily and evenly distributing the condiments atop his pie. the most notable method is with the plastic squeeze bottle of spicy oil: side to side, then front to back, then two circular passes along the perimeter. he pulls his first slice onto the paper plate as the kitchen bell rings again--my to-go order is ready. <quote-07>he takes a bite<quote-07>.
how many alternate realities have unfolded since the moment i left archie’s? i can’t imagine one wherein he doesn’t eat that whole pie. does this guy know how to live? i don’t know--he knows how to eat at archie’s, that’s for sure.
could i put back a large, two-topping archie’s pie at 3:30 in the afternoon? you’re goddamn right i could. have i? of course not. would i? i don’t know. i feel like i’d want to have earned it, like i was rewarding myself or something. either way, i’d probably feel bad afterwards. i mean, i would and i wouldn’t. so i ate a whole large archie’s pie. so what? what’s next?
i am a sick man...i am a wicked man. an unattractive man.