Excerpts from the Daily Rumpus

Stephen Elliott

These are kind of random, and not chosen because they're the best or most representative. The Daily Rumpus is an email I've been sending out roughly five times a week since December 2008. It's kind of an experiment in literary writing as an ongoing email correspondence. 3,400 people currently subscribe. You can subscribe to the Daily Rumpus here: http://therumpus.net/subscribe.


              August 12, 2010

Subject: P.S. 2

The time before last when I hopped a plane to New York it was like a fit of madness. I was back in San Francisco and I thought, no, it's too soon. I had second thoughts three hours into the air. What was I going back to? Where was I leaving? I'd been kind of dating someone much younger than myself. She'd said, "When we first met I thought you were creepy, a thirty-eight year old man hitting on a twenty-four year old. But you're not creepy. You're nice." But I was creepy, and she was beautiful. She was like candy you can see. Have you noticed, when you're in love, the sound of the person talking is like a stream, and when you're really in love it's like you've taken mushrooms and you're lying on a large branch above the river, smiling to the point of laughing, and the noise escaping the water floats above you in colors? It was the beginning of May, I wasn't in love, I was tunneling down a mountainside grasping for roots sticking horizontally from the earth. In the chute it was clear I had to stop traveling. I had to choose a place, a piece of carpet in the middle of a room somewhere, and sit in that spot for six months to a year. Before that I was walking with my roommate above the park. Dolores Park is perfect, grass like gold. I explained everything as we climbed the stairways built into the side of the hill looking for his old car, a BMW he'd bought for five hundred dollars. The power steering didn't work, there was no AC, the windows didn't roll down. You got in one door and out the other. The stereo was fantastic and I was surprised no-one had removed it with a crowbar as we drove past the inlet bordering the 101 toward the airport listening to Neil Young's Tonight's The Night. When it's over, losing your mind is just a story to tell.


             July 5, 2010

Subject: Peter Pan

What happens when Peter Pan only kind-of grows up. Instead of having children, getting a job, owning property, he and Wendy join an artist co-op. The people living in the co-op all have shadows sewn to their feet and they've been there a long time. Studio space is rarely available. The artists cook on hot plates with their doors open, the hallways are filled with paintings and sculptures. The bathrooms are shared. Some of the lofts don't have running water, but it doesn't seem to matter. Some of the artists have dogs. Many of the artists have lived in the building more than twenty years, some almost forty. Peter Pan is older too. He still wears his green outfit, but it's not as bright; it's the color of grass when there hasn't been rain in a while. He's still thin, but he's no longer taut. He's relatively happy, but there are bags under his eyes. 

Peter and Wendy went through a period of seeing other people; fairy tale polyamory, but they gave up on that, they settled on each other. The children Wendy used to tell stories to, and Peter's Lost Boys, have become adults. Never Never Land, it turns out, was just one more way of looking at America's melting pot of dreams. One of the children became a Republican State Senator. Another runs an internet porn company. One is gay and married in San Francisco with an adopted child. One joined a civilian militia guarding the Arizona border. The rest live in Middle Never Never Land: homeowners, tax payers, voters. The gay child sends Peter and Wendy a card every year with a picture of his son. The kid is as dark as a blueberry. The others are not in touch.

Wendy cut her hair short. Sometimes she uses the wi-fi at the cafe across the street. She spends a lot of time on Facebook but doesn't understand Twitter and doesn't want to. Peter is unpredictable, self-involved, but solid in the ways that matter most. When Wendy went in for her operation Peter brought flowers to the hospital and sang her to sleep. He's still more comfortable in groups than intimate conversations. Sometimes he stares out the window. Sometimes they don't talk for days. They have no walls in their loft. His desk faces one way, hers the other. They attend the meetings and draw water from an industrial sink wheeling it back to the studio in a shopping cart.

Wendy works part time at the Queer Youth Outreach Network. Peter performs at fundraising events for male sex workers at the CSC. They keep their expenses low.

One day Peter says, "I could have done more, but I could have done a lot less."

One day Wendy says, "You promised we'd never grow up. But I didn't understand what that meant." Peter stands in his faded outfit, hat tipped, tights hiding varicose veins, neither reaching out nor pulling away.


             May 11, 2010

Subject: Sunny

It made me wonder how that kind of morning could lead into that kind of night, and what we mean when we say the difference is night and day. What I mean is what's more likely: crying for four hours on a park bench or dancing in a bar as it's emptying out, someone's Motown CD not even at full volume, already the bartenders pushing the chairs to the side, a man dressed like a clown, the door open to the street the entire time? The streets the same as they've been for years. I thought, if I never go to sleep this will never end and that would be fine with me.


             March 11, 2010

Subject: Anonymous

Answers to your questions:

You gravitate toward motherless boys because you're nurturing, innocent, some would say naïve, but that's because they're cynical and unable to accept that what you really are is kind. 

Editing is just reading and re-reading hundreds of times until you find yourself skipping certain parts you don't want to read again. Then you cut those parts. Also, you question the sentence, ask if there's a better way to say something, a verb that gets there quicker, says more. Can you make one sentence do the work of two? Three? Editing is a separate skill. Different from storytelling. Some people are good at making things up, creating fictional worlds, and other people are good at crafting sentences. Some people are good at both. Some people are able to take a hard look at who they are and write about themselves with a breathtaking honesty that illuminates not just them, but us. Some people have a strong understanding of narrative and tension. Writing is made up of many skills working in concert and writers gravitate frequently to the style that highlights what they're best at.


              August 21, 2009

Subject: I Wish I Wish

I was thinking this morning, while listening to the Harold and Maude soundtrack, how far are we away from a world divided between people who live online and people who don't? I think you know what I mean. Not that people online don't meet for drinks or go out to eat. But there will be a split, where the Internet is no longer a phenomenon, it just is, and there will be people communicating online and there will be people who aren't into it. We have this belief that everything is going online, but that's going to stop at some point, like a neighborhood that was gentrifying just before the bubble burst, and so the Google employees learn to live with the artists and the immigrants and nobody really talks about why there's a dollar store on one block and a hamburger costs $13 on the next.


              April 29, 2009

Subject: Be Brave

Yesterday I was talking with an editor. He said he could imagine a time in the near future where bookstores didn't exist. I don't want to imagine that time. But I have to admit, I've read fewer books since I started editing The Rumpus.

At the time of our conversation I was in the male green room at Kink.com (NSFW).  It's on the second floor of the San Francisco Armory and men were walking around naked or with towels around their waists. One beefcake said hello and then laid his gym bag under his head and went to sleep on the floor. Usually there's a couch, but they were using it for something else.

I was reading through Kink's documentation, thinking of how to add narrative structure to a porn site about things that I'm not even into. But maybe that makes it easier. I need story because I'm into other things. 

Actually, I have no idea what I'm into. I got into that with Daniel Berger on The Rumpus a month or two ago. He said, "For all of us, lust is part of love." But I'm not sure I agree with that. I don't see what's so great about passion, about fantasizing about someone, remembering the way they smell, being unable to concentrate. Isn't it better to spend time with someone you actually like? What's wrong with comfort? And don't write me about "having both." Because we all know lust makes people lie to themselves. 

Anyway, the comment about bookstores ceasing to exist made me sad.


              April 24, 2009

Subject: let's say you're in bed with someone...

Let's say you're in bed with someone. It's early and she's taken her first shower at your place. Her hair is wet and she turns and asks about that other woman, wants to know what your plans are with the ex. A strand of hair sticks to her neck. You can feel how cool the pillow is even though you're half an inch away from where it’s damp. And you say, Plans? It's like asking what your long term goals are for your heroin addiction, or how you feel about smoking crack when studying for the bar exam. Ten years from now, will the needle still make you happy? Will it matter that you're sleeping in a box near the highway?



 


 

 

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