Saturday, April 14, 2007

Can I Get Some Fucking Peace?

What follows is a rant. Pure and simple. Don't look for any great revelations below. You won't find any. Don't force yourself to read this, you are under no obligation as a friend, fan, or acquaintence, because all I am doing is compaining and I'm sure you've got enough complaints of your own. I probably wouldn't want to hear your complaints either. I just wanted to get this out because sometimes it just feels good to yell out loud even if no one is listening and I was getting board with all the porn on my computer.

My life is turmoil right now. Full of anxiety, anger, and indecision. Full of noise and chaos. None of it my own, but shit I am forced to deal with nonetheless. In short, everything I hate. On my job I am stuck between the complaints of our sole client and the complaints of our company and I must listen to them bitch and argue at each other all day long. At the gym there are politics going on as fighters leave one gym or trainer for another and rumors and innuendoes fly. Promoters bad-mouthing their own fighters. Trainers talking shit about their students. Students talking shit about their trainers. Wholesale backstabbing. At home I have babies screaming, my wife bitching and complaining and stressing out about nothing. I go online and browse a few messageboards to get my mind off reality for a little while and there's more bitching and arguing and complaining going on there and I even wound up in the middle of it somehow, getting direspected by some idiot I don't even know who thinks he can talk shit to people because of his status in the publishing world. I have always avoided flame wars because people tend to say things online that they would never in a million years say to your face, yet there I was in the middle of one. Everywhere there is chaos. I despise chaos.

All I want now or have ever wanted was peace. I want quiet. Isolation if neccessary, but I can't take this shit anymore. I am sick of hearing people complain, sick of hearing people argue, sick of other people trying to get me to worry about shit I couldn't give a fuck about just because their anxiety needs some companionship. I am not one of those who thrives on drama. I am not one of those who's not happy unless they have something to bitch about. I am a fighter who hates to fight (unless of course it is physical.) Sometimes I feel like the only place where I can truly find peace is in the ring or during training. That is the only place where all the bullshit ends. It is the only time when most people really seem to get how meaningless all that talk really is, how pointless all that whining and complaigning and threatening and posturing and bragging really is. In the ring it is simple. I hit you harder, faster, and more often then you hit me and I win. There is no talking your way out of it. None of your complaigning and bitching and moaning and debating is going to save your ass once the punches start flying. None of your alibis mean shit when there's a shinbone flying at your face. Lately, it's been the only time when the world makes sense.

Writing has always been my other escape but lately getting time to write has been such a fight it hasn't even been worth it. From the time I sit down at the keyboard I am nagged without relent. I miss the days when I could just lose myself in a woman for a few hours and all my troubles would just melt away. God I miss it. Life was so much easier then. When I was giving in to my addictions none of this other shit mattered. I could sit with calm aloofness as others bitched and complained about all the mindless meaningless shit others bitch and complain about, thinking only about the next tiem I would be in my lover's arms. I could sit with detachment as idiots sought to drag me into an argument over something I could care less about while reminiscing about that last performance of creative sexual theater and looking forward to the next. Let the world go to hell as long as I could still pound out a few orgasms a day in whatever woman was available.

Monogamy has its drawbacks. Now I have no more escape. I am forced to pay attention to people as more than sexual beings and I am finding more and more that most people are just childish idiots. I am becoming more misanthropic by the day. If I have to listen to one more person whine and moan about some meaningless crap that they won't even remember a year from now I will murder someone. Too many more days of going from one chaotic den of whiners and complainers to another over and over without relent until I lay down to sleep (and often it doesn't even stop there) and I will take myself out along with anyone in the vicinity. I can see myself climbing a clock tower with a sniper rifle any day now.

Okay, maybe it hasn't gotten that bad yet. But a vacation in a little room with rubber walls wearing a jacket with the sleeves in the back does seem like a distinct possibility in the future if I can't get my inner peace back. I need that detachment I used to have. I need my "I don't give a fuck" back. Most people would say that I am still just as unflappable as I ever was. that I am still the most calm and peaceful person they know. It's true. I am the most calm and peaceful person I know as well. That's the problem. Everyone else around me is flying asunder and their chaos is slowly but surely beginning to eat away at my own inner peace. Even a mountain will eventually erode if hit by enough storms and I can feel myself wearing down.

So what do I do I about this? I can't handle it the old way because I've made a promise and taken a vow and I'm trying like hell to keep it. So taking on a mistrees is out. It would solve a hell of a lot of problems but, unfortunately, that's no longer an option. I am still entertaining the idea of coming out of retirement and fighting again and training does take my mind off all the other bullshit though it does come with it's own set of problems i.e. time to train, time to rest, time for work, time for the wife and kids, and time to train my other fighters. In other words it might only add to my problems by giving me one more direction to be pulled in. Still, it may be worth it just to get a couple of hours of "Me Time" a day. I can already here the whining and complaining that would bring.

There's still my writing, though that causes the same issues since it is such a single-minded commitment. Difficult when you have screaming kids running into your den or sitting on your lap and a wife asking you when you are going to get off the computer and spend time with her every ten or twenty minutes and usually right as you are trying to figure out some vexing plot point or turn of phrase. I've somehow managed to get in my writing time, but its not terribly relaxing due to all the fighting I have to go through for the time to write and the anxiety of worrying about when whatever moments peace I have been able to carve out will be interrupted again. Some days it's just not even worth it.

I could write at four in the morning when everyone is asleep but then I'm wrecked for the day and have to face all the chaos of the day while exhausted, which only makes it all worse.

I could start running again, start training for another marathon. train for marathons from now until my knees finally give out. The only problem with that is that my knees are already threatening to mutiny and at 6'5" and 250lbs I'm probably about one marathon away from when they do finally give way and then what?

So, the key has got to be to turn even deeper inward and find that inner peace despite all of the madness and without withdrawing physically to my den or the gym. I have to somehow escape in my mind while standing right in the middle of the chaos. While listening to co-workers complain about some trifling issue that they know damned well will probably never change and that they need to just deal with because that's what they are getting paid to do. While listening to fighters, trainers, and promoters complain about the state of the game even though it is now at the greatest height it has ever been and everyone is making a ton of money. While listening to my wife whine and cry and complain about the kids, her family, me, the weather, and every speck of dirt, anything that doesn't go exactly the way she wants it, any time any attention is being given to anything other than her. I should probably delete that last part. A little too honest and I wouldn't want to give the impression that my homelife is dysfunctional. But fuck it. This is my blog and I can vent if I want to. We're all friends here right?

I have never been the type to cry for every sparrow that falls and I never will be. Most of what happens in day to day life doesn't affect me in the least. I won't say I'm above it just outside of it. It's all ultimately meaningless to me. The only thing that really bugs me is everyone else's constant insistance that I share their petty worries and concerns and stress about this meaningless shit. Their desperate search for companionship for their misery and mania. Trying to make me share their fears, phobias, and apprehensions, share their anger, share their nervousness, stress, paranoia, sadness, shock, and trifling pet peeves. I don't care about the car that just cut me off as long as it didn't actually cause an accident it's not worth stressing over. I won't remember that car 24 hours later let alone a year later. I could care less about that friend who didn't show up to the party or hasn't called in a week or two. He's probably got better things to do and so-tha-fuck-do-I! I could care less about how much the kids are crying. If they are fed, their diapers are changed, and they aren't sick and no one is beating them or trying to kidnap them then let them cry, just let them do it in another room. That's why I bought such a big house, so I wouldn't have to hear them when I don't want to. I don't care if the damned dogs are barking. I don't care if the damned dishes aren't done. I don't care if there is dust on the floor. I don't care what some idiot wrote on a messageboard. I don't care about who's feuding with whom. I don't care what Dr. Phil or Oprah said. I don't care what sports team cheated or lost or won or how much money you lost betting on them. I don't care about how much gas prices have gone up. Drive or don't drive just don't fucking whine to me about it. I don't care about your bills or your weight. Get a job. Loose weight, or learn to love yourself. If you want advice I'll give it. If you don't take it than don't cry to me about it.

In fact, here's the deal. If you have a question I'll try my best to answer it. If I give you an answer to your problem than take the advice and run with it. If you don't take my advice than never bring that shit up again. If I tell you that I don't have an answer than never bring that shit up again unless it is just to tell me that you have found the answer on your own in which case run with that answer and never bring that shit up again. Don't keep telling me every fucking day about how well it's all working out for you. At first it's cool and I'll be happy for you and want to hear all about it. After a week or two (if not a day or two) of hearing about it in every damn conversation, it's just fucking annoying especially if it involves sometype of rehab or religion. If it worked for you than fine just don't become a pusher for it. If you don't want advice but just want a wailing wall to bitch and complain and cry against than hire a fucking therapist. I wish they could all just understand that I truly don't give a fuck! If we have common interests and concerns than by all means let's talk, even if we disagree that's still fun. I can talk all night about writing techniques, fighting techniques, past or upcoming fights, politics, philosophy, psychology, race, sex, and even religion as long as the discussion is logical and not dogmatic and no one starts crying or prostyletizing. I actually love to talk. I just don't like listening to complaints for the sake of complaining or complaints about things that I don't really give a fuck about.

If I express to you that whatever the hell you are concerned about is not a concern I share, then go find someone who does share it. Don't try to force me to care or get pissed off at me for not caring. We are all not cut from the same cloth. The only thing that really bothers me is other people trying so hard to make me care about shit I don't care about or worry about shit I'm not worried about or get mad about shit I ain't mad about and then getting pissed at me for not caring or worrying or getting mad. Them, flipping the hell out about all this petty meaningless shit when I'm trying to concentrate on other things that I do give a fuck about like the health and welfare of my children and family, like providing for my family, like whether I will even have a job by the end of the year, like whether I'll ever fight again, like whether my fighter will ever become a champion again, like whether I'll ever break into the mass-market, like whether anyone will still be reading my shit after I am dead, like how long it will take after I am dead before all memory of me is erased from the earth, like when I'm going to have sex again, like when I'll be able to just lay there and hug and kiss my wife without any distractions, like when I'll ever be able to catch up on my sleep. Hell is truly other people. So, I can either run far far away from it all and become a hermit, go back to being a sex addict, which ain't really an option, go out in a blaze of glory ala suicide by cop (okay, relax, that one isn't really an option either. Just fantasizing outloud,) just get more and more miserable until I suck on a tailpipe, or find someway to find peace in a storm the way I did when I was fucking everything that moved but without fucking everything that moves. I'll let you know what I come up with. Now, back to the porn.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Sellin' Watermellon Part II "Ode to Marquis Styles"

You may not know Marquis Styles, but if things go well you soon will. See, he is the creation of a very talented writer named Maurice Broaddus. He was created to capitalize on the ever increasing Urban Romance market, the "Girls In Tha Hood-'Round Tha Way Girls-Thug Life" books or as Maurice puts it the "Baby Mama Drama" books, the books that typically cater to every stereotype about Black men and women as thugs, pimps, players, giggolos, whores, and gold diggers.

Not all of these books enforce stereotypes. There are many that deal with very real issues in black romantic relationships and I'm sure Marquis Styles will fall into this category rather than the glorification of black male machismo. He and I co-authored a novella together so I know the man has talent. Still, it will be hard to pick this pearl from the swine currently crowding the bookshelves. So why do it? Why risk being lumped in with books like Thug's Life, Thug Matrimony, and Cash Rules? Why not take the literary highground or at least stick to more established and arguably more respected genres like Scifi, Fantasy, and Horror? Why? Because this is what sells. This is what the publishers are screaming for. This is what is flying off the shelves. Because it is difficult for a black author writing about black experiences to make a name for himself in regular genre fiction and Urban Romance is wide open. It is the equivalent of what horror was in the 80's. You'd definitely get far more female adoration as an Urban Romance author than as a horror author and in the Black community you'd get far less criticism.

Just check the shelf under African American Literature and you will find mountains of high-gloss covers with pictures of oiled down, scantily clad, black men and women, flashing skin or money or guns who look like they stepped right out of hip hop videos, written by people with names that likewise sound as if they came straight from a hip-hop album. It is what the public demands and if a writer wants to eat he sometimes has to bow to the public and suck up his artistic integrity and sometimes his moral integrity as well.

"Sometimes we sell out because we have no one else to sell to."

I discovered Marquis Styles while in Toronto for the World Horror Convention. I was in the self-proclaimed "World's Biggest bookstore" standing next to Maurice in the African American Literature section staring at a literal sea of gaudy and degrading book covers depicting one stereotype after another, when I made the comment that I often thought about writing one of them myself. After all, it's an easy in. It's an almost guaranteed sell, much like rap lyrics about pimping women, shootin' niggas, and slangin' crack. Write a book with a title and a plotline straight out of a Snoop Dogg album and someone will publish you. Write it well and you may even find yourself outselling some of the top Horror writers in the field. It is tempting. In fact, it is more than tempting. It is damned smart. It is good business. If I could do it I would.

"I wrote one."
"You what?"
I looked at Maurice thinking maybe I had heard him wrong.
"I wrote one. I have a publisher looking at it right now."

I was shocked. Not because he had sold out but because he had beaten me to it. Okay, I laughed my ass off when he told me his pen name. But so what? Marquis Styles will without a doubt outsell both Wrath James White and Maurice Broaddus. He may even outsell Brian Keene and Jack Ketchum. Is it really selling out though? I mean, how can it be selling out when we would be selling to our own people? Is there such a thing as selling in? Sure, every White person who walked by a book by Maurice Styles would probably shakes his head and think to themselves that every stereotype they'd ever had about Black people was justified by it, because it would probably have a cover that looked like all the rest despite it's content but they wouldn't be reading it anyway so who cares? These books would be read by the young men and women who were just growing up and trying to figure out what it meant to be Black men and Black women. They would be read by guys in reform schools, youth detention facilities, and prisons looking for justification for their criminal lifestyles. They would be read by housewives seeking to understand their Black men. By Black women trying to understand other Black women. They'd be used as an escape from reality by some and a way to get back in touch with Black culture by others who may feel that they have lost touch with it. And these books would be no different than all the Romance novels written by and for the default culture except that those books are amongst the millions of other non-romance books written by, about, and for the dominant culture including many heroic and sympathetic depictions while this would be the bulk of our literary representation. It would be the same as if Joan Collins and her ilk were the sole literary representation of the White race, if Harlequin Romance novels were your only glimpse into White culture. How could that possibly be selling out? What harm could these books possibly do? You followin' me here? You feelin' me yet?

I compared these books to rap music and that's a great comparison because what has happened to Black music since the seventies will now happen to Black literature as well. It will become less and less of a celebration of our culture and more of an exploitation of it. Much like black films in the seventies and even in the early nineties. It will focus on the most sensationalistic elements and exclude the true beauty and poetry of Blackness. Our children will gravitate to these stories and identify with them and ultimately emulate these tales. I'm not against anyone writing these books. I read Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines religiously when I was in my twenties. There is value in them despite everything else because they do depict a very real part of the Black experience. The problem comes in with an industry that will only allow you to portray one narrow aspect of the Black experience to the exclusion of all else. An industry that makes the most talented among us think that the only way to make it is to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Where for a writer or any artist for that matter "sell out or starve" is the only option. Given that option, the right choice is to become an Urban Romance author. Given the choice of never being heard at all, never being published at all, or only having one narrow aspect of the Black Experience published ad nauseum, I would always tell my brothers to go for theirs. I would tell them to get paid. If I could do it, I would too. Still, I wish that the options were more and the opportunites greater. I wish that a Black poltical satire or a Black Scifi novel or a Black Horror novel or a Black Fantasy novel would sell as well as an Urban Romance. I hope that Marquis Styles is very successful. I hope he makes it big and sells a lot of books. But I hope that Maurice Broaddus sells far more.