Aug 07, 2023

I decided to clean my house from top to bottom as my birthday present to myself. I'd neglected a lot in my frenzy to finish the Ghosts Trilogy. There were stacks of old bills, correspondence, and junk mail on every flat surface.  I sorted through them, tossing out the crap and filing away the important stuff.

Under a dusty book my father gave me in 2009—The Slow Cooker Bible, an attempt to help me improve my diet after The Second Really Weird Disease—I found an undated copy of a letter I sent to someone. I honestly have no clue who the (intended?) recipient was. There are only three people to whom I could've written this, and I'm no longer in contact with any of them.

I wonder if I sent it? It appears to be part of an e-mail that I saved for some reason, maybe as inspiration for a future project? I'm pretty sure I thought this was so profound that I had to keep it. I don't have the same feelings I expressed to my former friend, so it's strange to be given this view into my past. The letter could be anywhere from four to ten years old. I have perfect recall about most things, but others slip away. I also block out a lot.

A good three-dimensional representation of my mind is this.

Anyway, here's the letter or fragment thereof:

"See, my problem is that I prefer strings, expectations, and a future. It's hard for me to have a meaningful interaction with somebody I know I'll never see again. That's one of the reasons it wasn't all that tough for me to stop being a music journalist. I found it painful to have these deep, interesting conversations with people who would never contact me again. I know, I know: I wasn't there to make friends with them. But the thing is, there'd be this genuine connection, and then it would be over, and I'd be left sort of adrift.

"That was my problem, not theirs. It's getting easier to let go of people after making connection with them, but if I had my way, I wouldn't have to let go. I now tend to avoid making connection. It's chickening out, yes, but it saves wear and tear on my psyche. This must be the reason I've had only a single one-night stand in my life.

"In Japan you'd meet tons of people just passing through. You'd talk with them, hang out with them, go on day trips with them, get to know them, and then they'd pick up their backpacks and disappear. I never got used to it. There was this one Canadian guy I hung out with at a guesthouse for a couple of weeks, and then I came down to breakfast one morning, and he was getting ready to go. We talked about his itinerary, and then he said, 'Well, good-bye. It's been nice knowing you.' And then he left. It still bugs me, twenty years later.

"I guess I just find connection so almighty bloody godawful meaningful that I find it hard to accept when I feel it's being 'squandered.' So what's my solution? Everybody being polite robots except to their inner circle? No, that's no good. I don't actually have a solution. It's just something I have to deal with. I'm going to write about it in a novel someday, in a story about a guy who survives a terrorist attack.

"Sorry about your dog. My sister-in-law is a vet, so if your own vet isn't helping, maybe I can ask her for a pointer or two. Goddamn pets. They don't live long enough, they get sick, and they die. We need really smart pets that live as long as we do, that can be trained to behave, and that can be made to understand when we have to subject them to medical treatment.

"Hey! People would make great pets!


The solution I was finally able to adopt is to gratefully accept everybody on his or her own terms. Whatever they have to offer is fine with me. Some people can have only one "meaningful" conversation with you. Some can't have even one. Some hate connection. Some can connect with everyone equally. Some are afraid. Some are indifferent. Some are impersonal. Some simply don't have time. Some are too shallow. Some are too damaged. Some justifiably resent you putting demands on them.

Connection-wise, I now have constant one-night stands. Today I was in the parking lot of a Seven-Eleven, about to pull into the street. Some thug-looking kid with super-low jeans, a giant T-shirt, and a big Afro was walking on the sidewallk. I thought he was about to go in front of me, so I stopped. He pointed to his left, meaning he wasn't going to walk in front of me but planned to come into the parking lot, probably to go to the Seven-Eleven. He took the time to indicate to me that I didn't have to wait. I waved and pulled out of the lot, and as I passed him, he waved back.

I'll almost certainly never see him again, but we connected, human to human. Nice.

And I don't plan to write that novel about a guy who survives a terrorist attack. It doesn't really interest me anymore. The whole thing is outlined, chapter by chapter, and I named all the characters. I even got permission from Henry Scott Stokes to use his translation of Yukio Mishima's poem "Magagoto" ("Evil Things"):

Standing by my window
I waited each evening
For strange events.
I watched for evil omens
A sandstorm surging across the street
A rainbow at night.

I was going to title the novel Rainbows at Night. Then I discovered this song.

It's the perfect aural representation of the grim, bombastic way I used to think. The piping keyboard riff is especially apt.

Take it from me: When a guy presents himself as an angry, suffering, passionate power chord, he's really just a sappy little flute going tee-toh, tee-toh, tee-toh.