It’s been too long, really it has. I have excuses, good ones. They involve a long awaited novel (someone else’s), a long awaited novel (mine), international travel, ancient ruins, and parasites- oh so many parasites. So, where to begin? How about parasites. Many of you may not be aware that one of the hottest places on Earth is Death Valley. I’ve always admired the dereliction of imagination in the naming of this national monument. Death Valley. So to the point. No flourishes or flights of fancy. I like to think that in the end we shed many of our pretenses and that at our final moments we have the rare opportunity to face ourselves as we truly are. Whoever named Death Valley tapped into this. Or just died there.
Many of you may not be aware that coming in close second to Death Valley these days is Oklahoma City. It was 111 degrees in my backyard today. I’ve renamed my backyard Death Backyard in honor of those brave dead pioneers that once so cleverly summed up the qualities of North America’s lowest point. The reason for this seeming digression is that, because of this horror of a heat wave now in its third month, L and I decided to take a vacation to somewhere cooler- The Yucatan Peninsula. It was about 20 degrees cooler there so our reasoning was sound. Also I wanted to visit some of the Mayan ruins as it is about to be 2012 and I figure there are going to be an assload of Mayan-End-Of-The-World short story contests hitting the web and I thought it might give me a leg up to have actually been to ground zero. Just an aside, the Yucatan is famous for another major disappearance besides the Mayan; it’s the place where the meteor that killed the dinosaurs struck. How’s that for nifty?
I am not what you would call a lucky person. I mean that in the religious sense- I don’t win lotto tickets or bingo, that kind of crap. Also, if there is something that can invade my body and reek havoc, well I’m a human Motel 6. I came back from our southern neighbor with not one, not two, but three different parasites. My intestines were a zoo of amoebae and protozoa. Long, pale nematodes attached themselves to the walls of my stomach and had complete life cycles which ended in their alarming mass exoduses from the nearest available orifice in my body, which was different for the various zip codes that cover my gut and upper GI. Finally I brought home some sort of small flesh eating critter that promptly devoured about half a square foot of my skin- mostly hidden below the light natural fabrics I am now forced to wear, but just a little bit on the right side of my nose because that is just my luck this year when the male burka is totally out of style. And did I mention a bug laid eggs in me? I don’t consider those parasites because a parasite by definition damages the host without aiding it. The larvae are more of a symbiote because the wriggling under my flesh actually soothes me to sleep. It’s a sort of an epidermal bio-massage. My doctor pumped me full of chemistry. I found total revolting uses for my microscope. And I came to two important realizations: Whenever I watched those “Eaten Alive” shows on TV I always thought, “If I ever saw my stool trying to escape the toilet I would put a .45 slug in my temple.” Turns out I’m made of tougher and more bizarrely curious stuff than that. I discovered that all the hours I spend digging up things out in nature was satisfied by digging up things in myself. Saved a lot of gas. Second, I discovered that stories are parasites.
The latter realization is important to our purposes. I was listening to NPR’s Radio Lab where they interview Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert on inspiration and its components and she gave a very interesting and almost moving account of how she would make peace with the inspiration. She would talk to the idea- the muse I suppose- and tell it that she would get to it when she could give it the time it deserved. I thought about this for awhile, seemed reasonable or at least as reasonable as any other shit metaphysical creative process approaches I’ve tried. I have this idea. It has been with me for a long time. I told it that soon my research, my technique, my craft would be ready for it, just give me a few more short stories.
I talk to myself quite a bit so this isn’t as strange as it sounds. I was talking to my novel. My first novel turned out so fucking badly that I can only assume that novels, like children, don’t thrive when they are locked in small dark rooms and not interacted with except on the occasions when a Pop Tart gets slid under the door. My first novel is doing a dime bid at Riker’s for impersonating a narrative. But my second novel wasn’t going to be like that. I was just a kid when I wrote the first one, we were too young, too unprepared, the second novel was going to get everything it needed: tedious research, piles of notes, careful character study and millions more words worth of reading. I told my next novel that. Then I came down with a case of Mexican Parasites. A man’s sentimentality and patience for… the softer approach to things tends to wither a bit when faced with a five inch animal crawling out of him and then leaving a blood trail across his sheets. A new notion is born when you can’t get your ass off the toilet so you have to spread your knees apart enough so that the vomit won’t cover your legs because that just can’t be good for the weeping sores that are spreading from your decision to walk barefoot around a friggin Mayan temple. In these moments all you can think are, “Get this fucking thing out of me! Get it out of me right now!! Right fucking now!!” It is my opinion that stories are not happy little toga wearing Greek girls that let you borrow an idea from Olympus, but are more like small, hungry little interlopers that will reek havoc with your normal life until you clamp down and get the bastards out. So today I told my novel, “hey asshole, I’m not waiting. I am sitting down and getting to work and I don’t care if what I write is utter shit because it is the equivalent of literary Cipro.”
I don’t want to come off like some sort of “Carpe Diem” t-shirt (my art teacher in high school wore that and honestly I think I have purposefully wasted tons of days just out of spite), but I got so afraid of the defeat and anguish of having a 100k word work of fiction that sucks, that I forgot that the writer I was when I finished that piece of crap was one hundred times better as a writer than he was when he started. I could have never made that first novel a good novel, I just didn’t have enough work under my belt. It was hubris writ large, but ballsy if I might say so myself, and I am and will always be a novelist (unpublished but I could give a shit). I kept putting off starting the work with proxy work and preparation. I wanted the novel to write itself when I finally got going, but that is total bullshit, because if it writes itself then I don’t get to have any fun. I love writing. I enjoy the hell out of it, but the fun part isn’t the finishing of the story, it’s the creation. I am not afraid of parasites now, because I own several microscopes, boxes of lab quality neoprene gloves a first rate surgical set and a mad scientists willingness to extract things from my body so I can look at them. The fun of parasites, is taking them out.
I usually have pictures of my afflictions, but I will spare you those. Instead here is my new friend Patrick and myself at the Temple of the Wind. I’m the one sweating out one of the worst hangovers I have ever suffered. Luckily I discovered the “Temple of the Rural Mexican Pharmacy” nearby.
Okay, one picture of my Parasites. This is two days worth I think:
Naw, just kidding, these are lo mien noodles. I think showing pictures of my own poo would be just too low class.
That is your Science of Fiction for today. Forgive the delays please. I’ve been sick and I had to read “A Dance With Dragons” because I was waiting for more than half a decade for it to come out. Next up: Card Board Cut Out Fiction and the art of over-splainin where I will share some of the thoughts bandied back and forth between me and Slater, and later on I throw poo at my favorite (famous) writer.