I apologize for having left this site devoid of new content for so long, but I’ve been devoting most of my energy to what has unexpectedly turned into a pretty big project. I’m talking of course about Spy Rock Memories, the first installment of which appeared here a couple weeks ago. Inspired by a suggestion from Bruce Anderson (who has already published the first episode in America’s best weekly newspaper, the Anderson Valley Advertiser), I thought I could just dash off a couple thousand words summing up the story of my 20+ years in the Emerald Triangle, but the tale just grew and grew. 4,000 words (the length of the first installment) later, I was just arriving at the point in 1982 when I took up permanent residence on Iron Peak, and it’s now looking as though the whole story will top out around 25-30,000 words and six installments, the second of which should be posted here tomorrow or the next day. It’s even longer than the first, and I still haven’t written my way past the spring of 1982.
For those of you keeping track of these things, I didn’t make my final departure from the mountain until 2004, so, um, yes, lots of adventures still to come. It’s been surprisingly enjoyable writing about those years, especially considering that writing for me is usually about as enjoyable as having all my teeth yanked out sans anesthetic; the only downside being that it’s caused me to put my novel (which covers a bit of the same territory) on hold. Oh, and a good part of the rest of my life as well.
For instance, this being my first Christmas in my new apartment (I was away all last December), I had big plans to decorate it, complete with Christmas tree, etc., and have some sort of holiday party. No such thing has happened yet, nor have I even begun to tackle the Christmas cards I was determined to send out this year (something else I missed last year because of being away).
In fact, there have been quite a few days that I haven’t even set foot outside of the house, which is a shame, because we’ve been enjoying (well, so I hear via the television and the internet) some unusually pleasant weather for this time of year. Here it is almost mid-December and while much of the nation – even large parts of California – are getting socked with frigid temperatures and snow, we still haven’t clocked a single day where the mercury has fallen below freezing. Apparently this is supposed to be remedied as soon as tomorrow, when it’s predicted to get down around 24° (-4° C), but they’ve predicted all sorts of awful weather that hasn’t yet come to pass, so I’ll wait and see.
One aspect of December that’s been doing me no favors, however, is the ever-dwindling amount of light. I used to think that whole Seasonal Affective Disorder thing was a load of nonsense, but now I’m not so sure. If nothing else, it annoys me having to turn the lights on so much of the time, even when it’s still ostensibly daylight outside, and not just because I don’t like paying higher electric bills and contributing more carbon to the atmosphere. Well, actually, it probably is about paying higher electric bills. Speaking of which, I just got my November gas bill, and it had jumped from $15 to $19, with the only variable being that I had the oven on all day preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Seems a bit pricey, doesn’t it? But then my normal gas bill mostly just covers the cost of keeping the pilot lights lit on the stove, since, like many New Yorkers, I don’t do a whole lot of home cooking.
Mostly, I’ve been feeling a bit melancholy and cut off from society. That tends to happen whenever I’m working seriously on a piece of writing, but this seems more pronounced than usual, not least because I’ve come to believe that no matter what I accomplish through writing (or music, or any other art form I might pursue) is, while important, only a part of life, not a substitute for life itself. I was listening to James Ellroy being interviewed on NPR the other day and they asked him why he still kept writing even though he’d already made more money than he’ll probably ever need and acquired a degree of fame that would probably be more than sufficient for most people.
“I write for the same reason I’ve always written,” he said (or words basically to this effect), “so that women will like me.” Well, I don’t have my sights set that high; I gave up long ago (at least I think I did) on the notion that my words would ever cause someone (let alone several someones) to fall in love with me, but I guess I am still looking for some sort of connection, the sort that enables someone (or several someones) out there to say with conviction, “Hey, I really feel like I know that Larry Livermore dude, or at least some part of what makes him tick, and you know what? I can totally relate to him.”
Just why this connection should be so important – vital, even – I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that it is, and I think it goes to the heart of how I define “art.” Plenty of people will argue, some quite vehemently, that the reader, listener, viewer, etc., is completely irrelevant, that the true artist creates only for himself. To me this describes masturbation more than it does art; any artist worthy of the name, at least in my view, interacts with his or her audience, to the point where you could almost describe it as form of making love.
Okay, I realize how pretentious this is starting to sound, so let me drop it before I make any bigger a fool of myself. I just wanted to, er, connect with you faithful readers to let you know that I’m still here, still working, and am pretty excited about said work. I think you’ll enjoy the next installment of Spy Rock Memories as much as I enjoyed writing it. Actually, I hope you enjoy it a good deal more, because it hasn’t been all peaches and rose gardens, not by a long shot.
In the meantime – and if you’re in the New York area, you may still have time to catch this – I’m speaking at Bluestockings Books tonight, along with Silke Tudor, A.C. Thompson, Aaron Cometbus, and Jennifer Blowdryer. We’ll be talking about Gimme Something Better, the oral history of the Bay Area punk scene, and hopefully taking lots of interesting questions from the audience. The event goes from 7 pm to around 9, maybe even a bit longer if there are enough questions. I hope to see some of you there!