The Internet Ruins Lives


I’m trying out this new idea, an hour at a time:

Zero internet.

For an hour.

No checking email, no Twitter, no Facebook. No CBS Sports, no New York Times, no CNN. No following a rabbit trail from Eugene’s 10-Day Forecast on the Weather Channel’s site to Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live fiasco to Youtube’s “The Netherlands Welcomes Trump In His Own Words” (which, trust me, is worth 4 minutes and 4 seconds of your life).

But it’s SO difficult. Especially while writing on a laptop. I go to research something related to my writing, say, Hiroshima 1945, and suddenly I’m reading about how to make sushi with Willamette Valley trout, then off to a fly-fishing trout video filmed in western Montana, then how to pack raft down the Escalante River in Utah.

Wait, what was I talking about?

Right, the internet.

Yes, I recognize the irony of writing about no internet while posting on a blog…on the internet.


But this is real. The addiction. The distraction that is the little guiding Safari compass or gorgeous little orange Firefox wrapped around a globe of pure, pure blue. I want to click them. I want to click them so badly.

Yet, I’ve found a way not to be on the internet, using a mantra. Each morning – when I get up to write, to write a real book, a manuscript, not a post or status update, but a real book – I say this to myself:

“The internet is broken. The internet is very, very broken right now.”

But sometimes I don’t believe myself, so I have to be emphatic:

“The internet is broken WORLD WIDE RIGHT NOW!!! So there’s no possible way it’ll work for the next hour. You can’t search or click anything. You can’t check your notifications.”

The only thing is, sometimes my finger acts of its own volition, just drags that little arrow down, down, down – to the toolbar at the bottom of the screen – and sometimes I even click that internet icon without meaning to and a page pops up, and…


Damn. What is this internet thing, anyway? This vapid little pill?

I used to have a wrestling teammate in college who’d tried crystal meth once – only once, back when he was seventeen years old – and he talked about it for the rest of his life. He said, “There’s nothing like it. Nothing at all. And all I want to do is do it, do it all the time, every single night. I think about it all the time.”

I nod and smile. Say, “Yes, I know what you’re talking about. I too have this little addiction.”


Dirtbag Training Diary – For Those Obsessed

Summer’s like New Years for me:  Lots more time to climb, starting over, resolutions and questions.

Am I in good enough shape to attempt the 5.13a at Flagstone again or am I weak and frail, physically and mentally, and will I get pumped and terrified on the new 5.10a multi-pitch route with loose rock?  Will I train hard and improve or will it be like last summer when injury and a lack of motivation kept me inside the house way, way too much?

This will be my journal.  Regular entries.  I’ll vary the categories.

Start here –

A Realistic Assessment of My Current Skills:  I climbed a V6/7 a couple of weeks ago and I am currently in “onsighting every V4 I try” shape at Smith Rocks State Park.  BUT…I recently hung on a draw to get through a 5.10c sport route (almost too embarrassing to type), I haven’t redpointed a 5.12 in two years, and I top-rope (rope-solo) way too often.  I get out to the crags few times per year.  I’m climbing in a my garage right now (between endurance sets one and two).

I’ll only write about today in these entries.

Today:  I did 10 push-ups and 10 jumping jacks to warm up.  Then I climbed woody slab for three minutes to start.  Second set now…

Three minutes of slab on tougher holds.

Set Three: Onto the 30-degree overhang.

Dirtbag Moment of the Day So Far:  Free doughtnuts and coffee this morning.

Cliche Climber’s Nagging Injury Report:  You know this thing on my right elbow that sorta hurts all the time, and kinda hurts a lot more when I like push on it really hard?

Reading That Makes Me Thinkt:  Dave MacLeod in Rock and Ice Magazine – “Variety:  Whatever you’ve been doing recently in your training is now wrong.  What worked before won’t work again, at least for a while.  Move on.  Think of what you normally do in training and do the opposite.  It will probably work.”

Drafts and Jerseys – NBA Inspiration for Failing Writers (#42)

After a couple of months of struggle, I sent my novel draft back to my agent this morning. The work is ready to be read.

I wore a 2007 Allen Iverson Nuggets jersey while finishing the draft, and that particular jersey matters because those were the years in which Iverson’s work ethic was questioned the most.  But contrary to popular belief (note: the casual, ignorant fan) Iverson worked extremely hard.  When he did miss practice time, it was often after games in which he’d played 45 of 48 minutes, sometimes even the whole game, or when he was nursing multiple injuries from overuse or hard fouls in the lane.  Iverson stood only 5-foot-10 inches tall and weighed 165 pounds, but he crashed.

After Iverson’s infamous “practice” rant in 2006 (See the Youtube video), he was dogged by questions from reporters who didn’t understand his game.

In games, Iverson never stopped moving, never stopped working.  He was always cutting through, rolling off of a screen, catching, dribbling, passing, shooting, driving the lane, and diving for steals.  At his diminutive size, he was one of the most dominant and disruptive players in the league.

People just didn’t understand Iverson’s work ethic.  They only saw his tattoos, his mouth, and his raw talent (a cross-over dribble so quick that as a rookie Iverson made Michael Jordan fall on his butt trying to stay with him).

Iverson was not big and not strong.  But he worked.  All game long.

So, sometimes, I put on his jersey and channel his game time.  His work ethic.  His “You Can’t Stop Me.”

Other important jerseys for writers:

1. Danny Ainge’s 1992 Phoenix Suns jersey (my edition is stolen from my brother-in-law).  Ainge was so tough that he once got in a fist-fight with 7-foot-1 Tree Rollins. Ainge would chip, tug jerseys, “accidentally” bounce passes off of opponent’s faces.

Ainge knew no fear. He was pure blue-collar work ethic, something every writer needs.

2. Timmy Hardaway, 1995 Golden State Warriors jersey.  Hardaway had many faults, he holds the single-game record for futility, shooting 0 for 17 in a 1991 game, and that’s what’s so inspiring.  He kept playing always.  He kept shooting.  He kept crossing people up with his low “UTEP Two-Step.”

When I was accepted into Montana’s MFA program (a program I admired very much and wanted badly to attend), I was offered a spot without an associated TA or adjunct teaching position.  So I knew – upon acceptance – that I would not be able to afford to attend.  Their acceptance was also a rejection.

I didn’t have the money.

I went and got my Timmy Hardaway jersey from my drawer, put it on, then wrote the Montana program a rejection letter of my own.  After that, I got back to work on my book.

3. Finally, a 2000 Marcus Camby Knicks Jersey.  Why this jersey?  Of all defensive centers, why would I choose this thin, rebounding, shot-blocker?  Because he is the Camby Man.

And the Camby Man Can.

And you can too.

New interview with The Nervous Breakdown.

I was chosen by an edgy lit site for an interview this week:

The Nervous Breakdown is on the sharp end of the literary scene, with features of Nick Flynn, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Chuck Palahniuk, and I’m grateful to be included on their site.

They didn’t bold the first question about my father – making for an odd reading moment – but I was happy with the interview, and it’ll make sense.

The Interview:  Click.

The Excerpt They Chose:  Click.

Numerics Trip in Prime, New York City

An Obsessive Compulsive’s Counting of New York Moments:

Pierpoint Morgan owned 3 of the 50 remaining Gutenburg Bibles out of the original print of 180, and I saw 1 on display.  More than 1000 first editions at the Morgan Library including Thackeray’s, Austen’s, Popes’, Swift’s, Dickens’, and Twain’s.  1 autographed manuscript journal entry of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. 1 draft of the Constitution of the United States.  1 of Mozart’s compositions at age 5 years and 3 months.

Lyonel Feininger changed artistic genres 7 times in 5 decades.  My favorites:  2 rooms of woodcuts and 3 rooms of abstract impressionism at The Whitney.

I spent 4 days in Red Hook Brooklyn with Harper Collins editor Denise Oswald – my former content editor at Soft Skull.  She edited my 1 book. We rode the bus out of Red Hook 5 times.

Went to 1 Man Man concert at the Vans Warehouse in Greenpoint Brooklyn.

Got to read 1 night at Solas in the Village, Manhattan, and meet 13 0f my agent Adriann’s friends. Signed books at 1 Barnes & Noble, Court street, Brooklyn, where they had 3 of my books on the front table display.

Modern Libris sold my book for 16 dollars and had 1 sign next to it saying The End Boys, no “of,” with an umlaut over the “o” in boys.

Read 1 unpublished manuscript while riding in the hatchback trunk of a Subaru on the way over the Brooklynn Bridge.

Hiked through Central Park 2 times with Jennie.  Bouldered 2 days with her at Rat Rock.

Saw more than 200 nearly complete dinosaur skeletons at the American Museum of Natural History.

Ate at an Indian food restaurant that was 10 feet wide and 50 feet long, with 11 inches between tables.  As Adriann said at the start of the meal, “If there’s a fire, we’re all going to die.”

Tuesday, walked with Jennie down 1 back street in China Town on garbage day when they were throwing out bags of rotten fish parts.  Jennie gagged 2 times.

And 2 weekend days with Jennie in the Herald Square Hotel, Manhattan on 31st, between 5th and 6th.  3 museums in under 24 hours.

In this post, I wrote a prime number 19 times, a prime number.

Note:  1 is not a prime number.

Failing Writer #30 (O.C.D. and real book-sales numbers).

I just got notification that Amazon has started shipping orders of The End of Boys one month early.  So though it won’t be in stores until June 1st, the book can be ordered and received via Amazon now.

And everyone around me is asking me how it’s going to do.  How many copies will sell?

But I have no idea.

I would quote Sherman Alexie and say, “I’ll sell twenty copies, seventeen of those to my mother,” except this book is going to be difficult for my mother to read since it deals with the worst time in our lives.  In fact, I’ll be really proud of her if she reads the one copy I gave her yesterday.

So how many copies will I sell?

Thirteen?  Three hundred?  Forty Billion?

I tried to look up real sales numbers of successful and failed memoirs, and couldn’t find much except for the most controversial “memoir” of all time, A Million Little Pieces.  That book has sold a documented 5 Million copies world-wide, in 29 countries.

Other (better) memoirs, Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go To the Dogs Tonight, Karr’s The Liars Club, and Wolff’s This Boy’s Life must have sold in the millions, but I can’t find those numbers.

Also, to be honest, my book is never going to sell like one of those.  It won’t be an international best-seller.  No national or international book-tour forthcoming.

I’m not being modest either.  I’m reading in West Coast cities only.

So the book might do well in Oregon, maybe the northwest.  And I would be very happy with that.

Thinking about it further, I’m just going to say this:

I hope I sell a prime number of books.

257?  877?  1319?  7253?

I would be so happy.  I’d click my teeth and tap my fingers together in obsessive compulsive glory.

OCD Everyday Dirtbag #131 (counting again).

To win the game, we have to keep score.


Count everything.

So here’s a quick summary of my dirtbaggy week (in numbers):

5 free cups of coffee

7 free meals

5 days of climbing

4 days of roped climbing

1 day of bouldering

20 individual bike rides (mostly commuting)

189 push-ups

3 showers