Date: 20 May 1997 06:23:13 (EDT)
Last night (May 19) I had a dream about a high tech, very fast jet/ triangle taking off from an airport. I was watching it. I knew, and I don't know how I knew, that I was watching something designed by the military but hidden from the populace. It quickly flew out into space. I was in danger in my dream; I had seen what I wasn't supposed to see. All around me, I knew there was disinformation, miscommunication, and lies.
Now that I have about a month's distance from Federmania, and all the stupid bullshit that occurred as a result of "Report #1: Lack of Benway", I can now recount the further events of the Federmania week. I'm certain someone, somehow, someway, will take what I say in the wrong way, and be pissed at me, or try to censor me, or just say plain bad things about me. It seems like you cannot write the truth anymore. The truth just isn't pretty. We're not perfect, but we'd like other people to see us as perfect. I have always gotten into trouble with my writing, ALWAYS, because I like to write about real, truthful things. Here are some examples:
(1) In high school, on the school newspaper, I was infamous for my blunt, scathing editorials about current events (hostages, terrorists, politicians). I was also a drug user, and decided to write an editorial about the pros of drugs. I tried to hide any blatant suggestions that I actually advocated drugs, but instead called into question the rhetoric of the Trustees' regulations handbook. In it, it was said (or something to the effect): "This institute will not tolerate the abuse of drugs." I had to agree, of course; I did not tolerate the abuse of drugs either. Someone had to stick up for these poor, defenseless, drugs that were being slapped around like trailer trash housewives in the hot mid-summer sun. The teacher who advised the newspaper staff did not find my humor funny. In fact, she was appalled at my suggestion that I deconstruct the entire regulation handbook, as its rhetoric contained a lot of foolish fallacies. This advisor swore she would not censor the writers of the paper, yet she pulled my editorial and iced the series I suggested, even to the objections of the editor-in-chief. "I'm trying to protect you," she told me in confidence, "because you don't know what kind of people sit on the Board of Trustees, and I do. If you publish this article, you -- and myself -- will be called before the Board to answer to it." "Fine," I said, "I'll answer." "You won't," she said. It was bullshit. She wasn't trying to protect me, she was protecting her job. We've all known people, I'm sure, who tremble in the shadow of Boards, Committees, and Assemblies. Keep the status quo! (She later iced another story; an investigative report I did on Satan subliminal messages in Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath songs -- this teacher was a stout Christian, you see... but that's another tale to tell.)
(2) Ten years ago, I had this girlfriend named Ann Luckey. She was 33, I was 20, we met in a poetry workshop class, she was a topless dancer, the sex was -- well, this isn't about sex. Anyway, I wrote a poem about us driving to her house in Jacumba. I wondered if I should turn it into the workshop. I showed it to her. It was all about her. I took our conversation verbatim and put it in the poem. She was angry. There wasn't anything bad in the poem; in fact it was good, with maybe a touch of the macabre sensation of living in the mountains. She threw the poem at me, one eye teary. "It's like listening to a recording of myself," she said, and: "Why do you need to write about our private life?" I wondered if Philip Roth was ever asked that. She didn't speak to me for a week.
(3) Three years ago, Mark Amerika visited San Diego State University to give a reading. I introduced him. I also got very drunk that day. Many weird things happened, as far as getting drunk goes. I wrote a humorous report on this [NOTE: JASMINE, IF YOU STILL HAVE THAT EMAIL ARCHIVED, CAN WE LINK A PAGE TO IT? FUCK MARK, I DON'T CARE WHAT HE THINKS, THIS IS POSSIBLY RELEVANT.] and while I exaggerated a little, making everything seem more adventuresome and slap-happy than it really was (and getting the chronology wrong, and probably putting real people in the wrong places at the wrong time). I mass emailed this report, and a few days later all hell broke loose. See, I revealed that Mark was a letch; that this middle-aged fart was running around all over SDSU trying to get the phone numbers of 18 year old girls. He was also blatantly ogling their asses (and many a fine ass there was back in those good ol' SDSU days, as opposed to now) which tended to be kind of embarrassing, as I was showing him around campus. I fell prey to the activity, as I got drunker, and joined him in the eye-sport. Actually, I thought the report made me look bad, because I did some bad things. But it got back to Mark's girlfriend, an older woman, I took it, who supported him, and hated it when he chased skirts. So she found out he was chasing skirts and trying to get numbers. Well he shouldn't have done it if he didn't want her to know about it, was my philosophy. I didn't think it was that big of a deal, but Mark subsequently pulled an essay of mine from an anthology he was co-editing -- regardless of the fact that I, and a few others, implied that such a retaliatory action (in that he'd accepted the piece months ago and the book was in pre-production) was unprofessional. Mark's reply: "My Board of Advisors advised me to pull your piece." Board of Advisors, my ass, funny what some people like to hide behind. Oh well. The essay wasn't that good anyway.
These are but a few examples of how my writing has gotten me into hot water. There have been many other incidents, but the above are relevant to what happened during Federmania.
Sunday: Los Angeles, reading at Skylight Books with Lance.
Monday/Tuesday night: I was up at 3 AM, drinking vodka tonics (right now it is 2:12 AM and I am drinking Vodka and Coke), sitting behind my computer and wondering which of my many unfinished projects I should work on. I thought I'd write a report on Federmania. The report seemed factual and dull to me, but I sent it off into the Internet anyway.
Tuesday: I rehearsed and blocked Ray Federman's radio play, The Dialogue of the Bums, which I cast Christine Doyle and Monty Kraucanus in. We were gonna perform this at Twiggs' Green Room. This had been in preparation for a long time. Larry McCaffery had asked me months ago to do something theatrical with one of Ray's texts, and I thought this would be fun, and a good idea for Federmania. I exchanged ideas with Larry and Ray over two months via e-mail and in person. I thought long and hard on the staged reading of this piece, and what I came up with looked pretty interesting. Ray seemed excited about it.
Wednesday: Neither Larry nor Ray nor any of the writers or critics from Federmania showed up at Twiggs. A lot of Larry's students were there, about 70 of them, as well as some people I knew from the theater community. It was a huge crowd, and people were standing against the walls. It was supposed to begin at 8:00. At 8:10, I announced we'd wait a bit for Larry and Ray. At 8:20, I got nervous and checked my messages at home, where one from Larry was waiting for me:
"Mike! An emergency came up, Ray and I can't make it. Tell my students, well, tell them something."
I called the GoodNite Inn, looking for people. I got a hold of Lance and Andi, who told me they heard the show was canceled. I told them no. They said they were on the way.
I told the students neither Larry nor Ray would be coming, and we began the staged reading. There was a video crew there, taping it for a documentary on Federmania. It went off well. Lance and Andi showed up. After, I tried to get a handle on what happened, what the emergency was.
There was no emergency. Christine and I went to have dinner at Crest Cafe, and I used her cellphone to call Patches; the bar at the GoodNight. Larry was there. He didn't sound happy:
"Mike, Mike, Mike, what did I tell you about the email thing?"
"It's that whole Mark Amerika thing all over again," he said. "Why do you do this? This is literary suicide. I told you before, it's a small world, and if you piss off the wrong people, word gets around."
"What are you talking about?"
"The damn email thing you sent out," he said, "now it's all over the place and everyone knows about it."
What the hell? I had only sent the email to a couple of people I thought would find it amusing or informative; the Cyberpsychos mail list, Brian Clark, Lance Olsen, and Harry Polkinhorn. BUT Jasmine Sailing had sent me an email earlier that day saying she'd put the report on the Cyberpsychos Web Site under the new category, "Events Journals". I sent it to the mail list as I knew some of the people there might find it interesting; I sent it to Brian because he'd wanted to attend the event but could not; and I sent it to Lance and Harry just for the hell of it, as a last minute, half-drunk cc. I didn't think they'd read it, anyway.
"It just got on the web a few hours ago," I said into the cellphone, "how the hell has anyone read it yet?"
"Once it's in the Web," Larry said, "it's everywhere. I haven't read it, I just heard about it, I heard what you wrote about Thomas."
"It was true, ask Gerrick," I said, "and there was no harm. It was all silly. I don't hold a grudge against him. I've done many stupid drunk things. I thought it kind of added flavor to the whole weekend."
"I wish you'd seen him Sunday; he wasn't drunk, he was very sober and articulate. You don't realize what a big figure in literature he is in Germany, and he could help you with your work there."
Hmm, that seemed already planned. Even after the event, Thomas was still interested in getting my work to German readers.
"You're fucking up again," Larry said.
Indeed, I had somewhat fucked up with the Mark Amerika report. Mark pulled my essay and was bad-mouthing me to everyone, as I was getting these incidents relayed to me from other people. This probably blew my chances of having Black Ice do one of my books, and Mark's whispers in Sukenick's ears put me in a precarious position as a reviewer at American Book Review, although they have continued to run my reviews over the years. I felt bad about writing the essay; I didn't mean to hurt anyone or get anyone mad at me. It's just a natural impulse I have -- I like to record things as they happen. I also felt bad since Mark was kind enough to blurb my first book. But it was the truth (as far as I could decipher the truth in my view of the world), and Mark's pulling my essay from that book nullified my guilt, since it was a strike back and unduly unprofessional. I'm a fucking writer, dammit, that's all I have ever been, all I ever wanted to be, and I'll write what I damn well please.
"You have ambitions," Larry was saying on the cellphone, "I know you have ambitions with your writing, but shit like this can destroy you. It's fine to be wild and crazy and write about it like Vollmann, but even Vollmann changes the names. You should've changed the names. You should've called Thomas 'That German Guy' or something. Now, I agree with you about the grad students, but even still -- you have to be careful about what you write." (And being careful, I'm leaving out some of our conversation which could get us both into deep shit.)
I felt like shit. Yeah, I should've changed the names. But I only thought a handful of people would read the report, and fuck me if I didn't think the report wasn't well written and just plain dull. Again, I didn't mean to hurt anyone.
Thing was -- Jasmine had put the report on the web a few hours ago. Was the Web growing faster than I knew?
"I'll have Jasmine take it off ASAP," I told Larry.
"It's probably too late," Larry said.
The more I thought about it, the more I became paranoid. Something wasn't right. First thing after dinner, I got on the World Wide Web to check the report, which was at www.netonecom/net/~cyberpsychos/journals/feder1.html. It was there. But I also had an email from Harry Polkinhorn asking if I had sent him a long email, and that it had been garbled or erased by a grad student. I knew that W.D. (see how I don't give names?) had or still worked as his assistant, and W.D. was no friend of mine. We were once friends, and he often sought my advice as a writer. But I fucked a woman he was in love with, Rosina T. Not only did I fuck her cunt, ass, and mouth, I fucked her mind and life -- not one of my finest moments, I have to say. (I did write a play about it all, BOSNIA, which was produced Summer 96 at The Fritz Theater.) Further, W.D. hated me even more because he knew I'd had a three-week fling with Heather C., his old ex-girlfriend whom he was still in love with at the time (which was 3 years back). Heather had told me, "If W. found out about us, he'd freak." If it's not the words, it's the women. Things that begin with "w" will fuck you up. Anyway, I didn't trust W., as I knew he still held a grudge against me (I didn't really blame him.); we'd avoided one another when attending the same events the past few years, and were ignoring each other during Federmania. Oddly, at Larry's house, he did say hello to me, but he had a devious look in his eyes and I knew he was up to something. I started to have a paranoid feeling that W.D. had intercepted the report that went to Harry, perhaps changed it, and sent it to other people to cause me grief (he knew all about the Amerika thing, as we were still friends when it happened). It's the only scenario I could come up with. Jasmine didn't think anyone saw the report on her web site since she had not yet registered the site with any of the search engines, and in fact it went up *after* Larry had heard about it. Lance wasn't accessing his email account, and Brian Clark said he didn't get it either. Who had it? It was a cyber-mystery. I was intrigued and pissed off at the same time. I sent Harry an email and left Larry a message about my theory that there may have been a doctored version floating around. I'd re-read the report, and showed it to some people, and neither they nor myself thought I wrote anything bad or irreparably damaging about anyone.
I never heard back from Harry about my theory. The next day, I got the real story from Larry.
Seems no one really got the email, at least not hordes of people. Harry had told Larry about it, and a few possibly bad things that were in it. Larry assumed I had sent it out to dozens of people, as I had foolishly done with my Amerika Report, and it was in the hands of the wrong people. I sent Larry a copy of the Federmania Report #1. While he did find a few things questionable, it wasn't as bad as he'd imagined and in fact made some suggestions for changes that would cover my ass.
But something still wasn't right. Larry told me Ray had received an email about it from someone(s), and that Alexander Laurence had made a comment about it. Somehow, the thing was out there. (Maybe these few people saw it on the web?)
Another thing wasn't right: Larry told me he'd told Ray about this, and it was Ray's idea not to come to the staged reading. When I emailed Ray telling him what the mishap was, Ray wrote this:
Subj: Re: Dialogues
Date: 97-04-28 13:54:40 EDT
sorry about all the confusion -- i was just following the crowd and somehow we got lost -- sorry we missed the performance -- I hear it was really great -- and lots of people came --
did you video it per chance -- I would love to see what happened -- we'll do it again when I get back to s.d. next winter ..
thanks for your efforts and care for my work.
Well, someone was b.s.ing me, or covering their ass. Either way, I didn't care anymore. Disregard all the work I put into setting this staged reading up, and disregard the fact that it was the *most well-attended* event of Federmania, with about 90 people, compared to the small crowds at the seminars and readings on campus.
I had a dream about a week ago that I was witnessing the U.S. Military shooting down UFOs. I was out in the desert somewhere, and I saw a shot-down UFO crash, and I saw a dead alien on the ground. I saw the spirit (or "soul-matrix" as the aliens call it) leave the dead body. I thought: I hope it doesn't come near me. It did, fast, and entered my body. I woke up, choking, my entire body electrified for ten minutes. I knew I had to stop fearing things that couldn't harm me.
3, 4, 5 years back, I made every effort to hang out, befriend, and hob-nob with every possible published writer I could, from the obscure to the famous. I knew that the right hob-nobbing and, if need be, brown-nosing would aid in my ambitions to be published. At the time, I'd only had three chapbooks and some pretty strong magazine and journal credits, but I was pretty obscure. Hell, I still am. But I didn't have any books out. My hob-nobbing indeed helped me get some publishing credits, but not that much. I just had to work and be tenacious in sending my work out.
Had Federmania ocurred years ago, I would have been enthralled and excited. I'm not sure what I felt. Even Thomas mentioned to me that he was amazed that I had the audacity to "openly disagree with the masters." "I would never," he said.
Perhaps the days of hero-worship are over.
So, with Report #1, I found myself ostracized and censored. I also found this amusingly absurd, since the first panel of the conference was on the many methods of censorship, and the Fiction Collective authors present were at war with Congressman Hoekstra over his attempt to censor them. Then I'm told that I cannot write about certain things and people under certain tones and insinuations and that, if I should, it may damage my ambitions to continue publishing books.
Last week, Christine and I went to La Jolla Cove at night, and saw all the seals and sea lions sleeping. We walked near them. There were dozens of them, and other people too. One seal sat up and looked at us; he had this expression: "Oh no, humans again."
Some of us do the gawking, and some of us gawk. Very few of us, I suppose, know which one we are.
NOTE: If you have a problem with what I write, don't bitch to other people who'll give me the second-hand message. Write me: firstname.lastname@example.org