"...a deuce instead of an ace..."
From James T. Farrell's Judgment Day, the final volume of the Studs Lonigan trilogy:
How often in a fellow's life just one thing goes wrong, and then that guy is through and doesn't come back! One wild, accidental punch below the belt or on the chin. Some little thing, getting too drunk and going to a party and then...If he'd met some girl that night, taken her to a room, slept with her, his life would have been different, and he'd have woke up with her instead of in a hospital. Just such things that gave a guy a deuce instead of an ace. And he'd been chump enough to let those things happen, so here he was. Or was it that he was just the kind of a guy who couldn't take it? He fought the question out of his mind, told himself that the harder the breaks, the more he had to fight, and the sweeter it would be coming through.
Studs often has flashes of insight like this ("he'd been chump enough to let those things happen"), but he just as soon rationalizes away his shortcomings, blaming his travails on anyone or anything other than himself. And despite that last vow to fight through the hard breaks, he is always passive, just letting things happen to him. As he reflects ten pages later:
He was still where he had always been. Just hoping.
He still hasn't learned the lesson that just hoping, without decisively acting, gets you nowhere. And I doubt he ever will. And I suspect that the "judgment" suggested in the title won't be gentle with him.
What I'm writing
I haven't been doing any book-length work this year, but I'm still writing my weekly two-page stories. Nothing publishable there yet - still mostly first drafts that I haven't worked on further - but a lot of promising material. Whether or not any of it ever reaches finished form, it feels good just to be productive. I always feel much better about myself after a few early-morning hours of weekend writing.
On Friday afternoon the first hints of a new story came to mind, after seeing two older ladies walking arm-in-arm down Wells Street. An uncommon sight, at least on days when the Civic Opera isn't doing a matinee performance; at any rate, I don't think there are matinees on Fridays, so I'm not sure what brought these two ladies downtown. Yesterday morning I wrote the first draft ("Muriel and Lillian") which I edited in the afternoon into some semblance of a finished story.
Or so I thought. This morning I woke up half an hour before the alarm, and as I lay there, the story came back to me. I thought about the ending, which now seemed too tidy and summary, and came to the realization that the story isn't finished yet. Since then I've had further thoughts on how to continue the story and reach a more satisfying conclusion. Interesting how the mind works.
"There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. Writers know that. I have never met a writer who does not crave to be alone. We have to be alone to do what we do."
- Mary Ruefle
Sixth in a series of memorable curbside discards from around Joliet. Queen-sized headboard, circa 1980s, on Campbell Street. I'm guessing the garbage man will get this before any scavenger will.
I'm calling this "Sunset, St. Paul Estates, Joliet." Not quite "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico", but in Joliet we take whatever we can get.
"...of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods..."From William Wordsworth's "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey":
Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
With some uncertain notice, as might seem
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.
I can totally see that hermit.
I love this 1906 image of the McKinley Park swimming pool in Chicago, and particularly the fact that something as mundane as a public pool could have had such grandeur (and white-uniformed attendants). The park still has a pool, but the neo-classical structures are long gone.
(Actually, the building on the left still stands, though in sadly degraded form. The other structures and pool are gone.)
Doing the work
This week I found myself inspired by the following quote from Ted Thompson:
I still think the day I became a writer was not the day I sold my book, nor the day I was accepted to a la-di-da program. It was probably the first time I set an alarm and actually got out of bed, when I went to the kitchen and ground the beans and poured the water, and most importantly when I told myself to sit down and get to work because this mattered.
A few days ago, I woke up an hour before the alarm, but instead of resting awake in bed, I got up, went to the kitchen and did edits on a story draft ("The Golden State") that I wrote earlier this summer but had since ignored. Thompson's comment was running through my head as I got up and did the work, and I'm glad I did. Because I do think this story, and my writing in general, matters.
(Via Matt Bell.)
Quote“The essential fault of surrealism is that it invents without discovering. To make a clam play an accordion is to invent not to discover.” - Wallace Stevens
Clark and Madison
Lively image of the bustling (northeast) corner of Clark and Madison, in 1948. Ah, to be able to take in a show at the Clark Theater, followed by some liquid refreshment at the Bamboo Inn or Kozer's Tap, and then an afternoon nap in an air-conditioned room at the Planters. None of which, sadly, is possible at that same corner today.