Letters to Harrison: 11

What may seem like poverty to one man will appear to be a paradise to another. The photos of your friend “Bud” were eye opening, seeing the farm and your writing space in the granary. I noticed you were writing with a Comet and knowing how horrible those machines are it is no wonder you chose pen to paper instead.

That moment was captured when you read the letter saying Wolf had been accepted for publication, the cigarette in your hand with a spiral of smoke hanging in the air.

The Library of Michigan put on a decent show although the cheese and crackers might have been an insult to a man of your appetite and taste. Still free food is free food and for some reason I could not partake of the offering. Your desk was on display sealed in by a glass wall with your legal pad and pen sitting the way you had left them. A picture of Yesenin framed to the side, given to you by a friend.

Your assistant was there telling tales of the man only she knew and spoiled the fun of all the emails you had not sent over the years but labeled with your name. Many confessions come out after death and not by the deceased. The tale of Brown Dog was explained with a postcard you had sent.

Your distaste for things modern is well known. Coming to know you has expanded my reading list tenfold. Thomas McGuane, Rick Bass, and Peter Matthiessen have been added to my shelves, thick books that I have no idea when I will get to them. For some people writing is more of hobby instead of a lifestyle. And let’s face it, if it was my profession, I wouldn’t have time to read anyway. I would have some agent, publisher, or bill collector breathing down my neck wanting to know when the next book will come out so they will get their next check. Reading is for the young and I squandered that time with comic books and horrible movies nobody cares about anymore. The art of reading is dying while everyone thinks they are a writer. There are too many chiefs and no Indians to follow the pages being published these days. The world of literature has become a twitter storm of everyone trying to be heard and only the dumbest of comments being recognized by all. Tonight, I celebrate seeing a glimpse of your life with a bottle of Tresor de la Riviere Cotes du Rhone from 2014. I fear it might have gone bad since it was on sale at the local grocery store. They try to be upscale and I can’t fault them for trying. I figured a French wine for under ten bucks couldn’t be too bad, or could it. I guess if I don’t wake up in the morning, you’ll know what happened. Dinner was a meal of French onion soup with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and a sherry cooked into the onions. Stuffed buttercup squash baked in the oven until the goat cheese was roasted brown. It might not have been woodcock or quail but it was a meal to be enjoyed. I started reading Wolf yesterday and life for a young man was different from the environment today. A generation wasting away while a handful of assholes run the place into the ground. To do anything declared manly is to invite trouble. In this day and age men would have to form knitting circles and learn how to lactate in order to gain any attention from women. The whole thing is disgusting and yet in some ways they have not changed. No one should be surprised to see that the bestselling book during the height of the women’s me too movement was an abusive piece of garbage that was so bland the title was even grey. In a colorful world the simple-minded try to turn everything into black and white while the rest of us are forced to form into a pattern of good and bad, male and female, black and white, without asking us if it is okay for us to just be who we are. You weren’t good at life but you knew how to live, getting the most out of everyday until your last.

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Letters to Harrison: 10

How is it that the dead are able to stay with us for so long after their body is buried, covered by the earth? Business is never finished and that is true also for the dead. It has been over a year since my father in law has passed away and we are still handling his possessions. Those who don’t believe in immortality have never dealt with an estate after death. Items remain, bill collectors come calling, houses sit dormant, family photos with people unknown to those who remain are tossed into boxes and stored away in the hopes that somebody still knows or cares about the ghost in the pictures, and there are the clothes. A family of foxes have taken up residence at the old house and it is hard to say if this is a good omen or bad. The fox is known to be sly and could be mocking us at our choice to sell the place, or it was a warning to get rid of the property as soon as possible. Either way you never know until you are looking at the end result and hind sight is always 20/20. Immortality is different for writers, successful ones that is. While your books will appear on store shelves for the next hundred years mine just started to appear in the used book stores. There was a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in seeing my book sitting in a pile of donated material but it was sad to find the bookmark halfway through. The person who doesn’t finish reading your book is the ultimate critic. I was listening to a book yesterday called Inadvertent and the writer, a superstar from Norway, was talking about why he writes. The goal in his mind was to express an idea on paper and to say it so clearly that anyone can understand it. Then in a separate interview he talked about how his essays and books are about nothing and how well he can write about nothing. I started to wonder if these were the same thing, after all in this world where you can find anything on the internet and it would appear that anything that had to be said has been said, then is nothing the new thing to share that people can understand? Nihilism is the new cool and I can tell you this coming generation does not care about the people who came before or the ones who will be here in the future. The 80s notion of not caring because we are all going to die in a burning inferno of our own doing is alive and well, without the cocaine. I’m waiting for the day that someone out there writes a book called “Nothing Matters” and when you open the pages to start reading you find a title page and everything is blank afterwards. That would push the point home. Of course, the book would be declared a piece of genius, the critics would ask the symbolism of why it was 350 pages instead of one or two hundred. People will spend ungodly amounts of money for a signed first edition and people would still spend money to download and almost blank file onto their phones and computers because it is the cool thing to do and nothing matters. Physicist will claim this was the breakthrough they were looking for in quantum mechanics and wars would stop for five minutes. Then one person, the only one who can still think for themselves, will point out that the book is a fraud and that the world had been swindled by a giant hoax. In the end the author, whoever it may be, will still live long after death in the public mind for the grand book they never wrote because it didn’t matter. I laugh at these professors who try to say what the author really meant and what the story was really about. You and I both know that the author wanted to write. If the book was published it was good enough to make money on. If the public liked it, then it was a good story. If it becomes a classic then it was written well. In the end it comes down to the author needing a paycheck, needed to fight boredom, was trying to get out of his own life, or heaven forbid they were hearing voices. People are not perfect and we know that writers are far from that. Will Self is too lazy to write in paragraphs. David Foster Wallace was bitten by the Thomas Wolfe bug and thought good writing was determined by weight and not style. The Russians found a way to make depression a communicable disease. As for you, well we know how you felt about nature, sex, and food. Things that anyone, especially the French, could understand. Through a book we can learn what a person was thinking about at a certain time in their life. In that sense a part of us lives on. Is there anything more we could hope for?

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Letters to Harrison: 9

I came across a signed copy of Julip Saturday and bought it. Maybe you would think of me as an idiot or maybe you would be surprised that someone would keep such a thing, who knows? What is the point of collecting something just because a person signed it, one that you have never met and never will? Your grave is still a mystery and yet you would visit the graves of those that you admired if you had the chance. I can hope that you had your ashes spread and by chance a part of you is somewhere close, inhabiting the landscape in a way that haunts that which you enjoyed and loved so much. There is a film crew tracking your steps, visiting the bars and walkways you once traveled. I don’t know what they will find along the way or how accurate their movie will be. Everything is about perspective and if they want to paint you in a positive light or make you out to be the crass asshole you could be at times. I personally hope they find a middle ground and point out that you were just a man. Your aversion in being compared to Hemingway is understandable, a high marker that no man should be compared to because no matter how hard you try nobody could live up to the expectations one would immediately have on you. How fair is that anyway? It was a different time, a different world and only one person could possibly live the life is the one that he lived. That mold was filled and it was not reproduced with you. I was tempted to try my hand at ordering off of a menu as you had done, pointing to various items and saying “this… and this… oh and this too” going on until the table was filled and I would have to sit there until my buttons popped and people looked at me like I was a crazed individual that had just escaped from a concentration camp. Instead, I ordered the pork belly BLT and called it good. I’m not at that point yet plus I need a reason to go back and try something else. My life isn’t on the road and if I am to be in towns often that I don’t know I need something to look forward to. The sky finally cleared today, the weekend was clouded in gray and the cold rain hung over like a wet blanket of despair. Winter is not here yet and already I dread the lack of sun and the depression that comes with it. On the other hand, it leaves no option than to sit down and write, something I am lacking these days. I have noticed that once in a while you will mention books that you have read over your lifetime and I’m thinking about starting a list. Of course, I don’t know what exactly you enjoyed and what you didn’t but I have to assume that if you liked something that’s what you would have recalled, if I’m wrong you can always haunt my ass and set me straight. The deer are on the move lately, roaming the streets searching for food to prepare for winter. A giant buck has made it clear to me who owns this neighborhood and I am nothing but a nuisance in his eyes. I have considered going deer hunting this fall and after seeing him I wonder if I could actually pull the trigger this time if the option presented itself. There is a big difference between shooting a squirrel, catching a fish and having that disconnect between yourself and the life you took. The deer on the other hand seems to be a beast that knows you are out to get him and has an opinion about it. I suppose if I was hungry these thoughts wouldn’t come to mind and that could be the trick to a successful hunt. Leave with an empty stomach and you won’t have any qualms about taking a shot and dragging something out of the woods. Sorry bucko, I have mouths to feed and you looked pretty good at the time. It is the nature of things. Would things have been different this weekend if I had to shoot the pig behind the brewery to enjoy that BLT? I would like to say not but I know better. There is something different in a person that can take a life and even though I have been the end to many squirrel and fish I don’t know if I have it in me to take something bigger. That could be the next challenge I face this year. What is the worse that can happen? I have a nice day out in the woods? One couldn’t ask for less on a good day.

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Letters to Harrison: 8

Esquire has a podcast now where they go back and look at old articles that had been popular over the years and you will not be surprised that they covered your food column The Raw and the Cooked. They discuss your article The Days of Wine and Pig Hocks which I found to be funny and highly entertaining. Having never been on a book tour, only slinging paperback copies at local libraries and different venues where the odds of finding anyone who reads is like finding bigfoot, I have a hard time understanding the dreaded tour. I was glad to see you made a go of it, ingesting anything that looked or smelled good, and bringing a little extra weight back home with you. Bud is doing a gallery at the Lansing library and I have to say I’m excited to go. You must be the one person on the planet that doesn’t have more that five pictures of yourself on the internet but your friend Bud has enough to do a show. Have it be my luck to drive over an hour one way only to discover Bud has five photos to share and no prints. I could try to be less pessimistic but what is the point. Living my life as if the world is out to get me leaves me with a lack of surprise and yet it still finds a way to throw me a curve ball and beam me in the head. I heard that you had a knack for going into restaurants and ordering everything on the menu. I have never tried this for several reasons, for one my wallet would not allow it and I was raised not to waste food regardless of how bad it is. Well, until my parents tried it and almost threw up in their own disgust. I have always played the Guinea pig and while it has worked in my favor most of the time, I have to admit that there have been long days sweating in bed and mornings that drifted into afternoons while sitting on the toilet. This was in the days before cells phones so a good book came in handy. Try to grab something you checked out from the local library and share the love. There is a local Mexican restaurant that serves traditional tacos not far from my house and while I will say they have the best food in this category their service for the longest time was lacking. My wife convinced us to try it out again and forget the nightmare that happened a few years ago. There was only one thing I wanted to do when I arrived and that was to order every style of taco they had and try them all, which I did. I tried this before and I must have had the order that the cook decided was a pain in the ass. Still, how hard is it to make seven corn tortilla tacos with only onions, cilantro, and a wedge of lime? I waited one hour and fifteen minutes before my food arrived and the server never came back to check on me. The tacos were delicious, that wasn’t what left a bad taste in my mouth it was the lack of apathy to the customer. I ate the food and therefore paid for it but when it came to recommending the place years later, I pointed people to their reviews online and I wasn’t the only one. At some point the manager that the place was presumably named after, a tall blonde-haired white man with Buddy Holly glasses, either left or was finally fired, and the place named the Big White Cock in Spanish finally turned things around. I should do this more often, go into a place and order random things, but isn’t that what a buffet is for? Is the buffet just another form of cheating when it comes to good food even when you simply want to sit on your ass and stuff your face? I had a really good Sangiovese from Tuscany last night and slept like a rock. One of the five wine racks in the basement is drying up and I think it’s time to fill it up again. Maybe I will pick up some lunch along the way.

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Letters to Harrison: 7

Your movie Wolf was about cocaine, right? I haven’t read the book of the same name but I have to assume that with your discontent for Hollywood and the drug seen that the reason Jack Nicholson is running around feeling good, able to smell everything, have a boost in unwarranted confidence, and sleeps for 20 hours after a bender isn’t a coincidence. I have never taken the drug myself but know a few who have. The last man I ran into had just received his disability check and snorted the funds up his nose in one day. All of the Narcan training that people had been given was useless, his heart had stopped from the opposite of heroin. The woods visited me last night, a giant two-hundred-pound deer with a rack that would have made Dolly Parton jealous was standing in the neighbor’s yard when I came home.

We exchanged some snorts and he didn’t seem to care about my presence. It wasn’t until a few trucks drove by that he decided to leave. Before entering the swamp across the street, he turned at me and grunted one last time reminding me that he was the boss. I’m surprised that the neighborhood cats haven’t tried to take him down but it would be like the democratic party trying to take down a republican president. Cats do not form an army well and a liberal party with thirty agendas doesn’t accomplish much. When my non-disclosure agreement expired with my old Hollywood job, I wrote a book called Golden. Maybe it was to burn some bridges and not become caught up in the glitz and glory of a false god. Things must have been different back in your day because if I tried to live off of what I was paid I would have been homeless eating an endless supply of Top Ramen noodles. The last two days have been good except for the endless assault of my daughter who doesn’t have an off switch. The terrible twos is a horrible name for this disease. Maybe it should be called the traumatic twos or the terrifying twos, or the Trumpian twos. the last one might be considered a low blow but there isn’t too much to aim for down there from what I have been told. How is a writer supposed to make a living in a world where people don’t read anymore? Even I have been guilty of this, pulling out my voluntary bugging device and looking at the latest mind-numbing content on the internet. Before we clean up Washington, we should do a thorough flushing enema of the internet first. We can start with rotten tomatoes first who gave your movie between a 62 and 43% rating. I guess the audience didn’t see the point. I will have to grab Wolf from the self sooner than later and see for myself what your first novel was all about. These days good literature doesn’t get publish because nobody reads it and if you want to make a buck these days you have to conform to one or several options for prostitution that are available to be exploded by. I’m tired of getting screwed these days. You spend your time and effort trying to create something real and in the end all you end up with is a bill, lost time, and a sore ass in the end. That reminds me, I need to pick up a new cushion for my chair.

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Letters to Harrison: 6

There is something to be said about isolation, the forced disconnect from people that gives you a new perspective on things. I should have known that being in trouble would free up my time and give me a break from my normal routine. Watching the charlatans and shit stains of previous jobs taught me that the worst of us will be promoted, a polite way to say “shut up and just go over here.” Meanwhile the victims have to deal with their mental scars with the same pay and eventually fewer benefits. If women could figure out a way to procreate without us men would disappear and the world would likely be a safer place, except for that time that the full moon was out and then all hell would break loose for a week. I know you didn’t care working for universities but I’m considering a change. There has to be something better out there for a writer. Today was a bout of self-induced cabin fever. Seeing more people than I have to is not high on my list of things to do and maybe less contact with the outside world will be better for my daughter in the end. Afterall she will have her own fair share of disappointments she gets older. I don’t know where the magic age is for teaching this lesson. If I start her too young, she will trust no one, but if I teach her too old then she will trust everyone and that’s no good. Maybe I should leave some books about the buddha lying all over the house as she grows up, a constant reminder that life is suffering. Maybe she will also follow her own path and continue to be the unique individual that I know her to be. The world is good at many things, most of all destroying what makes us special. I have forgotten that lesson so many times you think I would have tattooed it somewhere on my body by now. My current job is to live as a Hobbit and while that would be fun the only part of it that applies is living underground and keeping things tidy, minus the food and drink that a Hobbit enjoys in the meantime. Its been two days and I wish I was back out in the woods. Morning is coming. Sleep is in short supply. Coffee will be my first real friend of the day.

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Letters to Harrison: 5

The clouds are starting to part and the question of seeing a sun or a moon starts to present itself. There are times in one’s life when you don’t know where you are going, how long until you get there, or even know if you are there when you arrive. You can’t see what is ahead of you, swinging your arms into the fog you learn nothing except that you are alone. I wonder when this is over if there will be a new beginning, the three days of Christ being in the tomb. The book would have been more fitting if he had been betrayed by Mary of Magdalene instead of a sissy like Judas. In fall the days start to feel longer even though night comes earlier with each day. Man fights to squeeze more in as he prepares for winter knowing that the clock is ticking. Beer taste better after a long walk in the woods. One will notice the dirty air of the city, the haze that hangs over, and the noise. There is a constant hum building to a roar. The noise never stops, rising a falling, a sea of waves on the eardrums. The roads absorb the heat of the sun pushing it back up to us, cracking and splitting as they stuff themselves in an all you can eat buffet. The city, with everything it has going for it, is not the place for me. The wildlife looks like myself. The dangers are hard to find and sudden. Tribes are a blurry construction and nobody appears to know where they belong. Home is where the wallet is. People collect jobs like trading cards hoping that one will pay off one day only to find out that their collection is a dime a dozen. Family has been traded for faces and voices in a web of lies where everyone wants to be heard and nobody wants to listen. Each day is a question of what will happen next. Pandora’s box has been opened and nobody has been smart enough yet to close the lid.

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