Since day uno, or at least since I came to care about what I wrote and how it was written, friends and foes alike have made plain that my writing ticks them off or even angers them. Mostly they’re dead-on: over-long sentences, both intentional and plain lazy grammar-belches, unconsummated metaphors and unfair extra-textual allusions make for pissed off and bored readers. These qualities make for readers who stop reading.
It’s bad enough to churn this kind of shit, friends and foes have offered, but it’s worser to do so adorned with the weighty proposition that doing so makes you “who you are.” You’d think that I, somebody who believes that practices and not essences produce identities, would pay attention to making my own favored practice, my pr-prose, both leaner and meaner. You’d think I wouldn’t meander so, that I could say what I mean without needing to spear, stuff and hang generic questions of meaning in advance.
My form peeves all sorts of smarties, and I take their points as surely as I don’t change. But it’s my content, packaged “expertly” in that form like a mail order LP between two stray cardboard scraps, that escalates the objections and bars the door between myself and potential comrades. Sometimes it seems there’s not content at all. Sometimes there’s writing about writing or the aforementioned referential cruelty (Leon Trotsky + William Friedkin + GG Allin = ?), and sometimes my point can be gleaned but it seems either hollow or overinflated.
So all told, I’m not worth the wait (and without any weight) as a writer. Pretentious! Twice I had a particular friend-to-be from the labor movement and labor blogosphere apologize in advance: despite our many mutual acquaintances and common struggle for unions, he had to tell me in advance of small-talk that he hated my writing. Another even closer brother constantly lampoons my writing and my politicking as predicated on a kind of antagonistic meaninglessness that corners my adversaries merely by confusing them. Wonk-smoke and marx-mirrors: pretentious!
An actual writer of stuff would’ve mentioned their reasons for bringing all this up by now, huh? Well, not yet:
- But it’s safe to say that a person who needs writing to help themselves through the world is squarely fucked if they’re not thought to be much of a writer, eh?
- And if their writing falters, fades and otherwise shrivels in their own eyes, well are they much of anything at all?
First question first, two examples. As will be familiar to some of you who read regularly, I had a hate-hate love affair with a punk msg board that became quite hostile and absorbed some of an unprecedented anger that various medical professionals “succeeded” in surfacing. As hostilities became more rampant and duller, and as I watched myself enter skirmishes elsewhere with this same mint condition rage, I called the whole thing off. There were plenty of supportive members of the msg board. (One guy compared my writing to Joe Carducci.) Nobody would defend me in public: either I was indefensible or their given profile, low or high, was too precious to be risked. But these allies offered, as did a dozen people “who thought I was a bit of a cunt,” several potential explanations for my splashy entrance and “wimpy” exit in “defeat.” Mostly they told me I either a) wrote too much, b) asserted my opinions despite “newbie” standing c) asked pointless questions in meaningless threads of my own design, or d) wrote too much. [Also, Slint/Bastro/Tortoise/90s indie rock, etc., are not for mentioning there unless you’re buying somebody else’s copies on discogs. In that case, well, that’s just punk rock, babe.]
Too much writing, too much identity, too much talk that goes nowhere. As I exited the msg board, I tried to explain to them that _I agreed_, and I’d appreciated their giving me a spot to a) observe the “cool kids” and capitalists of punk jock and roll, and b) their giving me a spot to take a crap. But I made a bad mistake leaving, same I made when I entered the building: I revealed that I struggled daily (losing mostly) with mental illness. I meant to say, “smart fucks and dumb fucks: you can’t hurt me.” I instead said, “nobody hurts me like I hate myself.”
I was a bad writer, worse than the “windbag” loathed by whoever they were. While they probably thought I was fishing for sympathy, really I was trying to masturbate with a cross like in _The Exorcist_ or shit the floor like GG Allin (RIP). I had substituted a biomedical designation for myself and for words. It wasn’t a meek bid for sympathy or mere silence, it was a power play. I invited myself and a bunch of folks who weren’t in the mood to fuck, fuck with and otherwise defile a dead man walking. You can’t respond to “you’re an asshole” by asserting “I am not a person.” But that’s exactly the logic nobody dug in my previous writing, which I’ve managed to seduce into my extremities, libido, internal monologue, cognitive mapping, motor function…into my very materiality. But what if you really aren’t a person?
Psychomotor retardation (also known as “psychomotor impairment” or “motormental retardation”) involves a slowing-down of thought and a reduction of physical movements in an individual. Psychomotor retardation can cause a visible slowing of physical and emotional reactions, including speech and affect.
Examples of psychomotor retardation include the following:
- Unaccountable difficulty in carrying out what are usually considered “automatic” or “mundane” self-care tasks for healthy people (i.e., without depressive illness) such as taking a shower, dressing, self-grooming, cooking, brushing one’s teeth and exercising.
- Physical difficulty performing activities which normally would require little thought or effort such as walking up a flight of stairs, getting out of bed, preparing meals and clearing dishes from the table, household chores or returning phone calls.
- Tasks requiring mobility suddenly (or gradually) and inexplicably seem to be “impossible”. Activities such as shopping, getting groceries, caring for the daily needs of one’s children and meeting the demands of employment or school are commonly affected. Individuals experiencing these symptoms typically sense that something is wrong, and may be confused about their inability to perform these tasks.
- Activities usually requiring little mental effort can become challenging. Balancing one’s checkbook, making a shopping list or making decisions about mundane tasks (such as deciding what errands need to be done) are often difficult.
Pretentious! A pioneer. You occupy a space where practices great and small seem further and further away, as impossible as being seems. You can’t sing, play guitar or read a book. Fuck watching tv. You can’t read a book! There’s a Ph.D. candidate with your name who since a wee teen wanted only to be a “real intellectual.” There’s a walking corpse with your name who has always been only a pedant. Things happen in your body, things happen in your house. There is very real failure, real failing happening and real failings piling up.
You’re still angry, and you almost confuse it with being alive. A shitty record store in Dearborn, MI called “Dearborn Musique” mistreats you like your insides yearn to deserve. It takes a day or three, but you realize you’ve been rolled. You email them once, twice. You escalate. Finally you get a telephone call. You’re offered a full refund, but only after being told by the thug-clerk that your emails didn’t make any sense. Some things don’t change. But some do. Luckily you’re quick to forget them these days. But you remember writing in at least one of those emails how you’d felt traumatized by the treatment “Dearborn Music” bestowed, how your condition worsened it, and how some other customers might be similarly vulnerable.
And there it is again! This time it’s hard not to wonder if you weren’t dropping hints that it was a sick person, if not a disabled one, who had been wronged: that special privileges and special recompense should be dispensed to these some and not those others. Isn’t this the identity politics that Fox News and marxists alike decry as either a) an unfair sense of fairness or b) as the misplaced denunciation of an injustice that is unjust but nonessential? I believe that all kinds of marginal groups deserve individual and group rights they have been historically denied. But do thirty-something dirty white-boy failures with illnesses that transfix them like Medusa? Haven’t I been misplacing my identity by bearing quiet witness to an essential and unstoppable illness rather than digging things I do and people I know?
Well, don’t forget, it’s harder to _do things_ than it was yesterday. It’s harder than the month before. And there are tests and specialists and far worse scenarios splayed out in my middle-future like a sickening deli tray.
But I do do records still, with all the boyish wonder and grown-up fear inside of me. ‘Last I looked they were still making fun of me on that msg board, in particular for mentioning the illness that I also earlier mocked but then went ahead and wrote this entire blog about. Pretentious!
I’m sure they’re still stacking merch and talking shit and elevating meanness to an art form at “Dearborn Music and Tapes, Inc.,” too. You know what? I’m all kinds of messed up and my prospects are shriveled and I’ll never even get to work in a bookstore or record store, probably…but at least I suplexed that genius over the telephone before I’d even broken a sweat. I had to do it, because just like with the record-collecting record merchants at the cool kid msg board, I had to keep _records themselves_ from getting soiled from abuse, opportunism, elitism or idiocy. Can records stay records as capitalism ascends like a monstrous erection and powerful punk wankers pick and choose their opponents and their audience from marketplace dregs? Can I recognize records in myself, myself in records, and records as records? Really? Can I do this while I try to neutralize douche-dicks and money-vipers by hating myself more than they’d ever dream of or bother to? Can self-contempt un-swell my fucking hands?
End of Part 1
Coming in Part 2: That’s right, we’re going to be talking about records (and tapes.)