Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pardon The Gap

You know, you're not supposed to go months at a time without posting when you have a blog. But since February, I've been reluctant to post because I wasn't sure what, exactly, to write about. SXSW gave me an excuse last month, but it's been touch and go since then. Let's just say there are people who can't be trusted out there, and they promised help and money and didn't deliver. If you need to know who I'm talking about, you already know. If not, not. I'm still desperately in need of paying off some of this back rent, but the day-to-day bills seem to get covered for the most part by Social Security.

There's also my Amazon store, which seems to come and go, where I'm selling books from my days as a book critic, many of them with collectable stuff like press releases, press photos, and reviewers' slips, all of which collectors are looking for. And some day I hope to have the time to sell about 100 t-shirts from the '70s and '80s, which are just the kind of vintage stuff people pay big bucks for on Etsy. But that means photographing them from several angles, entering them in a database, doing some light ironing and packing them in plastic bags. I had a friend who was going to help, but she vanished right around the time I was ready to start.

There have been health issues: I desperately need to get my teeth fixed, and even went to a dentist for an estimate, which turned out to be far less than I thought, but far more than I had. So now I'm going to see what AARP can do about that. I had thought that my voice wasn't going to work on the radio, but apparently some stuff has shifted around, so I'm doing a trial run this week. Let's hope it works: I can definitely use the income.

The main thing is, I don't want to lose this house. It's hardly a mansion, but it's the first place I've felt at home since the place on Borsigstr. in Berlin where I lived for 11 years. It's hardly perfect -- my pet peeve at the moment is this ridiculous touch-to-start faucet in the kitchen that starts spontaneously -- sometimes when I'm not even in the room -- and then won't turn off. But the location is nice, it's quiet, and for the first time in 20 years, I can play records without getting raided by the cops. I sit here in my office and look out the window at the back yard, which is visited by lots of birds, some of which I can even identify -- well, it's hard to get a cardinal wrong. I was worrying about the grass back there the other day, but a guy showed up and offered to mow it, and the result is that now the birds can see the bugs in the grass better than ever, so they hop around dining and hanging out on the fence. I have a deck, but no furniture for it to speak of, so I've decided to grow some stuff in pots there and a friend in New Mexico sent some chile seeds. Two weeks on, they still haven't sprouted, but then, I don't have the pots yet, either.

One thing I really like about the house is that, late at night, trains come through. Now, people in Austin know all about this, because they're forever getting trapped at the railroad crossings while gigantic long trains pass. But the train whistle at the crossing near my house (seen here) is one of those stirring sounds that go way back in American history. (Actually, it reminds me of the time I interviewed Merle Haggard and he told me that the sound of the trains near where he grew up in California made him anxious to leave, and I told him that I'd heard trucks downshifting on the highway near where I grew up and had the same feeling. He replied that I couldn't have understood because he was poor and I, at least relative to him, wasn't. We then got into an argument that got so loud that his bus-driver came with his hand on his gun to see if the boss needed assistance. "Hell no," Haggard said. "I'm havin' fun!" And he was: after all, I never even mentioned "Okie From Muskogee" or any of that other standard stuff.)

Things like that, and the ease of cooking on a real stove and finding ingredients that just didn't exist in Europe and being far enough from downtown that it's quiet, but near enough that I can go there when I have to, and the way that now that it's gotten warmer the air smells like barbeque brisket on weekends (no single source, just a pervasive perfuming) make me hope that I don't lose this place, but it's far from certain at the moment because my book still hasn't sold, and other projects are just hanging fire day after day after day. It's the waiting, the constant treading of water to keep from going under, that gets to me worse than anything.

I'm hoping this turns around before long, but there's no way to tell. I learned a skill when I was 16, got good at it, and watched it slowly become less and less in demand, at least in any way that pays. (I'm outraged that Arianna Huffington's appearing at my favorite indie bookstore here autographing copies of a book she's listed as having written called Thrive. Who can thrive when her whole business model is based on appropriating others' work without paying for it?) Meanwhile, I'm taking every opportunity I can to get myself out there and make contacts: the workshop I did for the Writers' League of Texas, this four-session course I'm doing for the University of Texas (which has been a gas: I'm sorry this'll be the last class on Wednesday, and have asked to do it again), and things like that, although none of them pay a whole lot.

I'm pretty sure by now that moving back when I did might not have been a good idea. I'm not altogether sure that moving back at all was a good idea. But there's nothing I can do about it now, and so I wake up each day, put one foot in front of the other, and walk on, hoping I'm headed in the right direction and that there'll be some good news soon.

And then maybe I can get some more shelves and continue to unpack!

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I should also add that Blogger's gone a bit wonky, and the other day I wanted to revise the blog-list over on the right there, because of a couple of blogs that've come up that you should know about. A friend in Montpellier has one in French that's pretty good, but I forgot to bookmark it the last time I read it, so that's that for the moment. Chris Frantz of Tom-Tom Club (and Talking Heads) fame has a good one, and, on the other end of the superstar spectrum, so does my pal Joe, who finally found gainful employment as a long-haul truckdriver and writes eloquently (and a little crankily) about it on his blog.  I just spent a whole day trying to add them, though, and it didn't work. Be the first kid on your block to read 'em, and I'll keep trying to figure it out. 
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