Last night I ate dinner with Harvey Pekar, the famous curmudgeon, underground comic author, the movie star.
I was a little nervous. I don’t know celebrities. My stomach did the runover snake, the chips of flint sparking or maybe Pringles (the crumblets). On the way over I drove my Subaru and drank a tall, cold can of Budweiser. It was about an hour after sundown. The moon was a Canadian quarter. I thought, “This Budweiser will make me talk OK with Harvey Pekar.”
[Flash tip: When expressing internal emotions, use figurative prose. Sarah isn’t bored. Her eyes glaze over like a dead fish. ]
Harvey Pekar had an odd voice, scratchy and high at the same time, like maybe a metal file rubbed across a unicycle. At first, I couldn’t understand his words. Then I listened closer, I locked into the cadence, the tick and flow. I could now understand. He said, “Killing an animal ain’t ethical.” I said, “Well, it’s all a spectrum.” We talked about whitetail deer and insects and then about whether or not we wear leather shoes and then Harvey Pekar said, “It’s what you said, a spectrum.” Then we ate big-ass greasy onion rings.
[Flash tip: Readers will learn, quickly. So a new voice or style of way or writing flash is perfectly fine. I might represent insomnia as fragments and shards. I might inhabit Elvis as a vignette of cocaine. No worries. The reader will eventually come along. ]
Harvey started talking about jazz and I didn’t understand a fucking word. I drank a jager, a jager, a Stella, a Stella, an IPA. My legs floated around the room and said hi to the ceiling fan and admired the ceiling fan’s whir, the sweet white crystal noise, host of fireflies, there goes the bubbles rising in the glass, glass elevators, and my legs hovering down, settling down, feet into shoes, thighs into pelvis, Jacuzzi soft jeans feel lovely, and I am back again and say to Harvey, “Look man, I don’t know about Jazz. If you are going to talk about jazz all night you’re going have to define terms, OK?”
Harvey defined terms (I clearly remember micro-tonal), then changed the subject. He told me about two pitchers for the Boston Braves, Johnny Sain and Warren Spahn. Harvey said, “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain." I thought this was pretty clever and had a nice ring to it. Then Harvey talked about the Russians and I know a shit-load about the Russians so now we were really talking. A little neighborhood of conversation. A summer breeze and jangle. I said, “I’ve never heard of that guy, Harvey, and I know all the Russians!” We laughed. Harvey drank another cherry Coke and I had a beer big as Kelly Clarkson. We laughed some more.
[Flash tip: Chekhov could teach you anything you need to know. Read every single story. Then read his letters to his brother. Then read the biographies (there are 314 at this time). OK, now write. Write about your job. If you don’t have a job, get a fucking job. Work there. Ok, now write.
Here is my nursing job
Here is my dog washing job
Here is the time a young lady cut out my heart with a ice-cream spoon and served up my soul on a saltine right before leaving me forever and stealing my dachshund.
but I digress…]
Then Harvey said, “My wife can’t stand me to be around the house” and I laughed too loud and I shouted “My wife can’t stand me either man!” and all the people at the table stared at me and so I felt all tree fall/square and got up and walked right out the door to my Subaru and drove directly home. I almost hit my own dog on my own street. That dog isn’t supposed to be running free. But it happens, man. There he goes—blur of white/spark of black—a dark ghost skittering off after the razor’s glow of streetlight…
[Flash tip: end on an image]
[Flash tip: or try the truth]
I am going to drop some 100% truth on you right now. As I was writing this, 9/22/09, after a lunch of diet Coke and pretzels, Harvey Pekar just dropped by my office here at Ball State University. I felt odd having Harvey Pekar standing in my office. He handed me a handwritten note. The writing is terrifically cacographic. I mean brutal. Loopy, crazy blue squiggles and lizard coughs. Jesus. It’s a long note, so I will just end on:
The beginning line of Harvey Pekar’s note: Sean, If you intend to pursue…
A middle line of Harvey Pekar’s note: More daring are Kotekletaev and his…
The Ending Line: Good to meet you Harvey.
Sean Lovelace blogs at Sean Blog: It All Relates 2 Writing