The Reacharound

8 Feb

New England

I used to have this friend, he was a terrible person, let’s just call him Christian.

When I first met Christian, he was in his mid-twenties, just bumming around South Side playing pool and being a wastoid. He claimed to have his GED, but he could have been lying. He lied a lot. He drank even more. He was malnourished and weighed maybe 116 pounds soaking wet and holding a sack of laundry. Not that he ever did laundry. His teeth were rotting out of his head.

I hung out with Christian because he always seemed to have girls hanging around him, and this fascinated me. Here was a guy who had absolutely nothing going on for him, and yet, he regularly banged girls who were light years out of his league. He wasn’t a musician or a writer or an artist of any sort. He wasn’t even really a “player.” He was just a piece of shit with a cell phone.

But I learned things from Christian. I watched him. I studied his game. And one thing I took away from Christian was that he didn’t hesitate to just throw a girl his battered pre-paid Nokia phone and say, “Put your number in there.” Whereas most guys would be tentative, wait for the “right moment” to strike, Christian just got right in there. He was aggressively open about the people he accepted into his life, because Christian had figured out a simple, beautiful truth–that when you have lots of girls in your phone, good things tend to happen.

*  *  *

When artists, and particularly authors, hear the word “networking,” their tendency is to react as if someone just kicked shit in their face. The prevailing wisdom, I think, is that to foster relationships with such “industry types” as agents, editors, and even fellow artists, is somehow antithetical to the creative process. As if such a practice were businesslike, disingenuous, and overly shrewd.

Reaching out to people, however clumsily, should not be an outcome-based proposition. When I started this blog, I sent nice emails to Austin Kleon (author of Steal Like An Artist and Newspaper Blackout) and Shaun Usher (creator of the influential website Letters of Note and the lesser-known Letterheady). I also sent the link to HuffPost Books and Boing Boing. A whistling cyber-silence ensued. Did they deem my site unworthy of a mention on Twitter? Did they openly mock me to friends? Does it matter if the first girl you text, or the second, or the tenth, doesn’t respond? I have an abundance outlook. Think about this stuff for too long and it paralyzes you.

*  *  *

A few months ago I received a vaguely menacing letter from a public library in Alaska. The letter was addressed to Christian, and came with a court summons demanding payment for some books he had borrowed, and apparently never returned. The books he had checked out were hilariously and distinctly in the wheelhouse of a guy like Christian: “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein, and something by Bukowski.

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