First Post of the New Year.
Welcome to 2011.
That’s actually so weird to write. Especially if the world is going to end in 2012.
As you may know, I’ve moved back to San Francisco. It’s hard here, at the moment. The city has taken some hits. Some lumps. The vibe here is… well, bleak, sometimes. The street I live on, one I’ve lived on three previous times, is very worn. Some small businesses have gone. Though, some survive. Kayo Books, for one. Man, if you want vintage noir… or vintage lesbian fiction? That’s the place to be, let me tell you. I first went in there, and it’s only across the street, over fifteen years ago. Bought my first Johnny Liddel novel there. My Tony Rome. Evan Hunter. Great place. Spend your money there, trust me.
But, the city? It’s feeling the downturn, man. It’s rough. You can see it in the eyes of the people on the streets. Feel it in the desperate energy in the air.
Sorta like my current manuscript. I’m having trouble with it, if I may be honest. It’s feeling desperate. Rough. Beat up. Sometimes, a book just arrives easily. Like a lying smile is easy. Sometimes, they… well, they come harder. Like concrete meeting your face.
This one is harder.
I’m actually working on two books at the moment. That’s a first for me. I need, really NEED to make them both work. They’re feeling desperate. Like the streets outside my door are feeling. They’re feeling like their backs are up against the wall. Just like some of the people I see on my way to the BART in the early morning must be feeling, as they get ready to try and make it through another day.
Today, I figured out what I needed to do. In order to make it feel better.
I watched many, many episodes of The Streets of San Francisco. No, no, no… not the Richard Hatch years, for cryin’ out loud. The REAL years. With M.D. I was first intro’d to this city back in 1977. I came up for my sister’s wedding. Her first. I was about thirteen. I wore a brown corduroy jacket and brown fedora to that wedding. The fedora I had bought at The Schlock Shop over in North Beach. (Now long gone. Not North Beach, but the shop). And if you remember The Schlock Shop? I’ll buy you a drink at Vesuvio the next time you’re in town. I mean that.
I actually smoked a pipe for the first time, that first visit. Thanks to the groom’s the best man. Don’t remember his name. He did, though, also give me my first jazz record. Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis. I was already listening to jazz, off this college radio station in San Diego where we lived. The Best Man was driving me through Golden Gate Park, and Freddie Freeloader came on the radio. I said, “Oh, that’s Miles Davis! I love that song!”
He nearly drove off the road. This thirteen year old, talking about Miles.
It was great.
Just like watching what the city was like, back in that decade. It helped me, seeing the city, as it was, back then. No, it wasn’t perfect. Not at all. But it worked me. Made me think about my book, and how my stories are tied to this very city. How my characters are tied, to this very city. To its concrete. To its people. The people who DON’T have a lot. The ones who struggle everyday. The ones who are, maybe, growing harder… every damn day.
Sometimes, the book just won’t work right. Sometimes it will give you fits. Sometimes you need to take a time out, regroup, delve back into what made you WANT to write that book anyways. What made you want to write THAT CHARACTER. Sometimes… well, sometimes you just need to let a little air in. Into your book. Into your life. Into your past.
Hey. You guys out there? Have a great and prosperous 2011. Here’s to wishing you a wonderful year!
And hell, man… if it’s not right now working out for you? Or your book? Then watch one of the great TV series from the 70’s.
See ya soon.