Restricted Frequency #193
Mexico! Lebanon! Words! Excellence!
Anthem: House of Pain – Faster Pussycat
This edition of RESTRICTED FREQUENCY should’ve contained a big update in regards to my studio and its windows, but instead I’ll be talking about teeth. Yes, teeth. Actual teeth, nothing metaphorical here. The reason being that I woke up one night in sheer agony, pain shooting through my gums. Me being me, I popped a couple of painkillers and left it at that, and continued to do so for a couple days hoping the nerves under my gum tissue would just get too exhausted to properly function anymore. They didn’t and the suffering continued, hindering my ability to work, eat, or sleep—but me being me, I naturally cared more about the hinderance to work than anything else—and so I begrudgingly succumbed myself to the mercy of a dentist. My history with dentists (American dentists in particular) is not a happy one, and this last visit affirmed my sentiments (I have very low tolerance for arrogance, incompetence, seething greed, combined with a complete lack of human emotion). After speaking to a couple other dentists and being assured that I would not see relief until they ensured their unhindered access to my hard-earned cashish, I made a snap decision and booked a next-day flight to Mexico City. Within the same few minutes it took to book the flight, I had booked an appointment with one of the city’s finest dentists along with an AirBnB within walking distance, all of which when added up accounted for about half of what American dentistry wanted to charge me.
(This entire experience resulted in 3 short Instagram Reels: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)
But even more important than cost is the genuine care and attention to detail my Mexican dentist provided. I feel like I have finally, at age 41, found my dentist. While at it, I also found my dermatologist. Specialists I can rely on and see consistently. Not so absurd to have your designated medical providers in another country if said other country is a mere 2-hour flight away. I have fantasized about establishing a second home in Mexico City ever since visiting last summer, and now I have very good reason to do just that in earnest. More on this in the future when I’ve mapped out a solid plan.
The biggest downside of my sudden excursion to Mexico City for treatment is a bunch of my projects taking a hit, projects that no kind of “laptop warrioring” could sufficiently address. But truth be told, this stepping away from the grind of things made me see things from a bit of a distance and realize I’d had way too much on my plate anyway, something I had long ago promised I wouldn’t do. America’s consumer-capitalist pressures however have a way of making one forget their principles from time to time. So anyway, in between treatment sessions and unanticipated antibiotic-induced naps, I’ve had to figure out which of my projects can be worked on under such circumstances. PROJECT SNOOZE, a prose project, fit the bill.
Funnily enough, I just came across this line from Haruki Murakami’s NOVELIST AS A VOCATION:
“If you have a cavity and your tooth is aching, you can’t sit down and take your time working on a novel.”
This book came as a recommendation from Warren Ellis in his ORBITAL OPERATIONS newsletter and it really could not have come at a better time. Have you ever come across a book on writing (or any creative practice) wherein the author extensively talks about maintaining one’s health?
“Research shows that aerobic exercise leads to a rapid increase in the number of neurons produced in the hippocampus in the brain… However, if left as is, in twenty-eight hours these newly formed neurons will disappear without having served any purpose. It’s a real waste. But give these newly formed neurons some intellectual stimulation and they are activated—they connect with the network in the brain and become an organic part of the signal-transfer community. In other words, the network in the brain becomes broader and denser,”
“I began running once I became a full-time writer, and for thirty years running for an hour a day, or sometimes swimming, has been a regular part of my daily schedule… during this time I’ve never been seriously ill.”
“Get your body ready to go, and only then can you sit down to write.”
Ironically enough, I remember confiding in Molly Crabapple a number of years back and admitting to her my intentions to pick up writing (this was before I’d had any serious prose published) to have something to do when my body becomes too feeble to paint or draw (this was a half joke, I also just really like good prose). But if Murakami’s opinions count for anything (which of course they should), even writing has its physical demands.
This passage also stood out to me:
“On winter days when I pass groups of highschool students out on a mandatory run…”
Wait what? Mandatory run? I never had mandatory runs growing up! As health and its maintenance become more of a concern of mine, I’ve been coming to a number of realizations about my upbringing that has me feeling… well, cheated. I recall having one “Sports Play” (the equivalent of “Physical Exercise”) class a week at school, in which we, the students, were just left to our own devices in the schoolyard. The less sporty among us (myself included) opted to just sit around and do nothing. Preventative dental/medical visits were virtually unheard of; you only saw a doctor after experiencing a health crisis. I’ve already had to overcome much of my upbringing to become the person I am today, and it’s rather disheartening to realize that—in your forties—there’s still yet more to overcome.
It's all good though. The designer side of my brain tends to relish in the creation of systems for streamlined conduct. This applies both to physical spaces as well as the less tangible aspects of being. The former occupied much of the previous month given that I had moved into a new space, and now I’m thinking quite a bit about the latter, with particular emphasis on strategies to avoid health emergencies like the one I’ve found myself in right now. Establishing a home base in Mexico City is part of that plan.
In his book, Murakami also talks extensively about the importance of travel to his process, which is wonderful to learn about because I always find myself stung by that writer’s bug whenever I’m traveling. Solo traveling especially, when it is just you and your mind in a stimulating environment dominated by tongues that you cannot understand. Granted, this is something I’d like to change if I am ever to live here even for some part of the year. I’d like to become fluent in Spanish and avoid falling into that detached expat life, which I’ve come to notice is quite prevalent around here.
I thought I was done with PROJECT SNOOZE when I delivered it almost a month ago, but I was informed that I was about 66% below word-count. Apparently, I had misunderstood the brief somewhat, and so I had to assume the task of beefing up what I had already written, which for me is much more difficult than starting with the presumably dreadful blank page. Initially, the purist in me wanted to argue that… well if a story wants to be lean and minimalist then lean and minimalist it ought to be, and I couldn’t really see how adding to it would make it better. That is, until I landed in Mexico City. Aside from the authorly qualities the city awakens in me, PROJECT SNOOZE serendipitously includes a border-crossing aspect meant to evoke sentiments not entirely dissimilar to my own feelings after having crossed (more like hopped) from Texas to Mexico. The words have been flowing, rather effortlessly at that, and PROJECT SNOOZE will indeed become beefier and far more excellent for it.
I couldn’t be in New York for this (not lying about too much on my plate), but THE SOLAR GRID is a recipient of this year’s MoCCA Award of Excellence! Thank you to judges Karen Green, Colleen Doran, and N. Steven Harris for this tremendous honor! And for my co-conspirators at Radix Media for setting up at MoCCA Festival to begin with.
If you recall, I mentioned a few newsletters back how MOUTHFAIL has been nominated for the Kahil Award in Beirut. Between these two recognitions, I am feeling very moved these days. Dental drugs may also have something to do with it. I am due to be in Beirut for the awards ceremony btw, where winners will be announced Oscars-style (how nerve-wracking!) on April 27. I’m also participating in a symposium on April 28 with a fantastic lineup of esteemed speakers: Paul Gravett, Powerpaola, Georges Khoury, and Eszter Szep.
The Free People’s Village
Given that the cover has been publicly teased, I’m sharing it here:
Traditionally, this would be counted as a straight-up cover reveal, but we took a different route with this one and the cover is in fact far more than just the front image, so I’m calling this a tease. You’re going to have to hold the physical thing in your hands to see what I mean.
Reviews have been pouring in for this one, with reports of sleep loss and abundant tear shedding. While I may not be the author of this novel, I feel just as invested as if it were entirely my own. I couldn’t be more pleased to have been a part of the book’s realization even if in a very miniscule way. Pre-order if you can, and be sure to give author Sim Kern a follow. They rock.
As always, muchas gracias for your time. My apologies for the long break but it has been a turbulent time that necessitated much setuping before being able to slide into a good steady routine again, which you simply cannot be productive without. Murakami would agree.
Mexico City, Mexico