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Wuck

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.

March 23rd

<pull-quote>dusk?<pull-quote>
<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>Late night. The game in Arizona started at 7:08pm. My school was on fire, so I didn't have to work early the next morning. I am a fan of dusk, but I wouldn't walk the neighborhood at dusk--far too many people out and about. I like the world to myself if I can get it.<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>so great. i never would have pictured after dark.<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>so what, i don’t?<pull-quote>
<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>It's, like, not all about you, Wuck.<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>it’s not a pretty impulse to examine, but it sure shows up sometimes.<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>You're a brave man to own up to it. You know how to live just fine. Relax.<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>fourth graders<pull-quote>
<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>Show me a man who won't behave like a fourth grader whenever he gets the chance, and I'll show you a man with whom I'd rather not associate.<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>taken to its extreme, this would of course be a nightmare though, no? i guess “the chance” is the qualifier here.<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>Yeah. How often do we get them?<p-comment>

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<pull-quote>failure<pull-quote>
<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>I wonder if a decent person can maintain the sociopathic force of will needed to pursue something like acting once he has a wife and kid.<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>i’ve had a difficult time with this comment since i read it. initially it felt hurtful, both in its disparagement of my profession and in its seeming tone deafness to the sentiment i was expressing. i’ve since been able to see that the latter was not your intention. i assume you’re trying to say you sympathize with the difficultly of the circumstance i’m in. i do however still bristle at the former.<p-comment>
<p-comment>and when it comes to providing for a family financially, the choice to give up acting is not an easy one. in fact, at this point, it might even be stupid for me to do so. i’ve made a lot of money acting. and i also could have easily continued working at the bar or otherwise while i was on orange, i just chose not to because my time was more valuable to me than the supplemental income. would i do different now? it’s possible. but possibly not.<p-comment>
<p-comment>point is, this pandemic shutting down all entertainment production and restaurants within a week with no timeline for reopening has caused me a lot of stress, with impeding fatherhood compounding the emotional complexity of the situation. i don’t, however, see it as an omen to end my indecent, sociopathic ways.<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>The comment was purely philosophical.<p-comment>
<p-comment>I hope you realize how off base you are about my intentions when you read my next letter.<p-comment>
<p-comment>Are you just touchier with age?<p-comment>
<p-comment>I really don't want to have to censor individual turns of phrase in fear of "hurting" you. If you can't appreciate the poetics in the phrase "sociopathic force of will," we have problems.<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>thanks for saying this. totally could be i’m more sensitive with age. i definitely get choked up more easily these days.<p-comment>
<p-comment>i don't want you to be censoring yourself, and i more than appreciate your poetic turns of phrase. you spin them better than i do; finding them is an enjoyable part of reading your letters.<p-comment>
<p-comment>it doesn’t seem like a “sociopathic force of will” that keeps me going, no. but sometimes it takes an outside eye to gain perspective on how one’s efforts might be perceived. to me, i’m just on the path that makes the most sense.<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>Honest follow up: do you think possessing a "sociopathic force of will" would help an actor in his efforts to be successful? I can't help but connect what a selfish piece of shit Matt Jones is with how successful he's been.<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>not necessarily. different people have different amounts of drive, and some with little can muster more. i’ve seen actors that go to all the workshops and take all the classes and write to all the casting directors and send all the thank you cards and do the social media thing and all that and just can’t seem to get anything going. and i’ve seen folks where the doors are all wide open for them from the start. so i guess i don’t think being a selfish piece of shit is of assistance, no.<p-comment>
<p-comment>two years ago when i started on orange i went around and around about whether to engage on social and i just couldn’t bring myself to do it. now that nickcasey has a new slew of tunes to release and a pandemic has struck, i’ve changed my tune, and am kicking myself for not utilizing orange to gain the ten thousand followers, some of which might have be interested in nickcasey.<p-comment>
<p-comment>you know what i did when i got orange? i read books and i learned bach. maybe i’m the selfish piece of shit for NOT maintaining the force of will that might have moved me up to the next rung.<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>done<pull-quote>
<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>What's the requisite gestation time, then? Must good art always portend the future as opposed to react to the present?<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>i don't want to feel manipulated by a work; i want it to open me. there's a moment in gerwig's little women that comes to mind that touches on what i'm gesturing at here: that you shouldn't subvert the greater more mysterious, possibly more etherial truth of a moment in the name of making a political or social point. if a moment's answer overshadows its question, it's no good. this is also individual, of course. because you saw honeyland and said, fuck those dirty gypsies. you felt manipulated by the directors (which is an alternate although probably not totally disconnected sentiment from the former) whereas i did not. i'll try to include the little women moment somewhere in my next letter.<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>bukowski<pull-quote>
<avatar-hoke><avatar-hoke><author-name>Hoke<author-name>
<p-comment>Talk about writers with style but who few people would say is a model for how to live.<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>he takes a bite<pull-quote>
<avatar-hoke><avatar-hoke><author-name>Hoke<author-name>
<p-comment>Man I love that pizza, that place. Few establishments would make me want to do exactly as this man here. Cheers to him. And to Archie's in Bushwick, Brooklyn forever and ever amen.<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>Feeling very left out. Eager to try it one day.<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>weeks anyway<pull-quote>
<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>You know what, motherfucker? Give it back. Put it in the mail right now. Brave the motherfucking coronavirus and send me back my goddamn book.<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>i shouldn’t have taken it. not sure why i did. probably because it felt more important from you. i never do from anyone else when they recommend something. there was a certain honor in the receiving of it from you. i will of course bring it back. i didn’t know you’d written in it until a couple of months later when i opened it.<p-comment>
<p-comment>however different, this reminds me of getting that atrocious hat from you, hoke, and then asking to send it back so i could get something that i’d get use out of. i’m not looking good in either of these situations.<p-comment>
<p-comment>i do however look forward to resending the photos of me in it when baseball starts back up and we have to face rodney or that cubs guy that does the same shit. in fact, hoke, i’m wearing the LA hat you sent me after out to walk the dog in a sec. i’ll be sure to cock it.<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>(salivates at promise of baseball starting back up)<p-comment>
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