I walked onto a train in Naples, April 2007, and images of rising fire from garbage heaped in the streets was the burning memory I expected to leave behind me. It was shortly before the army was called in to sweep clean the city of trash left behind by an inefficient, Mob-controlled, waste industry.
There was a man training his dog to play fetch with a purse in front of the train station.
When I had arrived, I stepped onto the subway and the man at my left and the man at my right stuck their hands into my pockets. I held my passport, phone and wallet which was awkward—because they did too.
I didn't say anything.
This had been my idea of chaos or the apocalypse.
Lawlessness and anarchy was not as obvious in March of 2010. Naples was the place to be. It was an authentic—beautiful—Italian city, without a lot of tourists. I was returning to Rome, after a short stay in Palermo—and just as I wanted to be, I was lost.
A hot, early morning sun sat low in a hazy sky as blinding light reflected off of the blue sea beyond the harbor. I watched a thin, balding man working on a ship as I walked towards the first of two ancient fortresses the names of which I can't remember.
I am writing about Naples because I am still lost there—It's been more than two years and I think I was lost before I got there. I think I was lost before I started writing Bar Fight.
I have faced so much rejection writing Bar Fight that I can't remember if I have learned to embrace it or if the only reason I write is to set myself up for it. We all aim for rejection sometimes—sometimes more than we think—it gives us the safety zone were we learn and grow but it's often easier to watch someone else do it—this is where I come in.
I build things,
I destroy things.
I rebuild them
I say what I can—if I shouldn't.
I say what I should—if I don't know how.
I am lost,
and I don't know if there is anything left to gain from this.
I can't invent a deeper pretense for what this means.
I am still lost in Naples, I am still in some residential town, with steep hills on the side of the sea, and I am still looking for some museum that holds one of Caravaggio's works—I can't even remember which one it was.
Somewhere in the back of my mind is the idea of viewing Caravaggio's Seven works of Mercy, one of the few works of Caravaggio I never got around to seeing out of pure laziness—I just didn't make it to the church on time—literally, it was in a church.
Do I think anyone will ever read Bar Fight? Do I think Bar Fight will ever get published?—not a chance. I think people would rather play video games that involve shooting zombies for hours on end as an escape, as a release for aggression and I don't blame them because we are all doing this for the same reason I wrote Bar Fight. I think we count ourselves lucky this day in age for surviving.
So here's an endorsement from a so called "writer": Do not read books like Bar Fight buy Call of Duty Black Op's II—enjoy it, I will be editing—editing is the same as surviving your own zombie apocalypse—(though less noble) self rejection is far safer than real rejection.
The streets of Naples were narrow and crowded, leaving little to the imagination about what life would have been like there during the 1600's. Caravaggio was there—in the 1600's—he was famous and successful and maybe as much of a reject as I am now.
He'd been expelled from the Knights of Malta. He had joined the Knights of Malta hoping to be pardoned for the murder that had gotten him exiled from Rome and despite all hope, his career was coming close to meeting its unexpected end—death.
I've been reading older stories on the Bar Fight blog and can't help feeling as If anyone who has read them should have recognized the Bar Fight blog as a practical defense mechanism.
I started writing fiction to say exactly what I feel, without being accused of being dangerous or insane because it was fiction—I was a fiction writer. The Bar Fight blog, supposedly true, tells everything aside from what really happened when I was in Europe writing Bar Fight. It's a facade with no meaning—it says nothing—so lets make this personal;
I don't know why I'm doing this anymore, so I may as well let it get weird.
Who is reading the Bar Fight Blog anyways? Apparently 25 people from China last week and 35 Ukrainians?
Facebook and blogging, represent everything Bar Fight is supposed to be against and here I am doing it anyways and doing it poorly—spelling and grammar issues—vain pleas for attention.
Here's a personal story that might start to mean something to somebody—this one's for the Ukrainians!
Last week I had a dream that I was lost in a giant church on Christmas Eve, there was a lady sitting next to me and she was sobbing. I tried to support her. I told her not to cry and she wouldn't listen. She wouldn't leave. The church was dark and everything was made of stone. It was raining on some of the people but not us. There were thousands of people there and their eyes were glowing. None of them were real. Nothing was real. I became annoyed with the woman when she wouldn't stop crying. I had to be strong and this seemed unfair. The priest asked everyone if they were satisfied with the seating arrangements. I became annoyed with him because he couldn't make the woman stop crying—he didn't ask about her.
Then I was in my bed. To my left was my fish tank. I watched an eel swimming. The eel represented a pure evil that consumed me with abject terror. To my left everything was black. To my right was dark but there was enough light that I could make out a few details. I felt blackness pulling me in and struggled to fight it—this concerned me because my efforts to remember that light was good and darkness was bad was matter of fact. I couldn't get myself worked up about it. I didn't care.
There was a videocamera in the light—it was hard to notice—it was mounted on a tripod, aimed at me. I realized that if everything I do is recorded, watched, scrutinized and judged for someone's own voyeuristic pleasure that I would rather sink into blackness and fade away. I committed to a life in hell and when I did the devil appeared at the foot of my bed. It was understood that the 2 x 4 wood beams stacked at my feet represented everything I have accomplished (under the eyes of many, nothing)—I had spent the previous two days building a desk where I can edit Bar Fight and work on the Crucifixion of Barabbas at the Place of the Skull. I saw that the devil had red skin, horns, a tail and I just couldn't believe he was really, real. He was laughable—this concerned me because if evil isn't real, what is good? I tried to conjure an image of him more terrifying and monstrous but I couldn't and he lifted a 2x4 and threw it directly at my heart.
I screamed as it bounced off my chest, wanting to believe I was afraid but I felt nothing. I picked up a 2x4, threw it at his heart and watched it penetrate right through the devil like he was made of tiramisu.
Then I was awake. When I had made the throwing motion, I knocked the alarm clock on top my nightstand and something fell off of a bible on the second shelf and woke me up.
Maybe the reason I started writing Bar Fight was to convince myself that pure evil really can exist but I am still lost in purgatory, rejected and I survive this way.
I remember the feeling in Naples, 2007—maybe I was lost then too, sitting near the docks late at night with friends, the tiny, white moon behind and above us didn't seem real. It seemed to mock an Eden we had already expelled ourselves from from as we passed around a bottle of wine. I suggested we write a message in the soon empty bottle. We were in Europe, we were study abroad, we weren't in some fancy bar, or our warm hostel room—we were on the fringe, we were drinking down by the docks and we were rejects. I was a reject, I came with no place to stay, ran into a friend on the street and now I was drinking with 5 girls, 3 guys, 3 guys that didn't know how to treat 5 girls, 1 who knew how to get them to sleep with him, 1 that tried, 1 other that kept to his own (me—the reject of rejects)—2 lesbians—the next day I saw them naked—they pulled down their bottoms to apply suntan lotion to one another—1 girl left Naples alone the next morning—said she had homework—that 1 guy who tried had really creeped her out—he was the first to scribble down some words that some philosopher once said and this is what I wrote on my side of the note;
"Here we go Steelers! Here we go! This bottle was thrown into the Monongahela river on April 12th 2007, [CENSORED] you!"
The Pittsburgh Steelers are an American Football team in Pittsburgh.
When I threw the bottle into the sea, it smashed off the side of a yacht and shattered into pieces before touching the water.
Maybe I was lost then too—five years ago. Maybe I wrote Bar Fight to show all of you how great of a failure I could be! and I did it!
The Bar Fight Blog was a spawn of rejection—I was rejected so I blogged—staying rejected was my freedom—I kept doing it because it was safe and now I just don't gain from this anymore. I just don't feel like telling you about The Time I was Almost Eaten Alive by Stray Dogs at Pamphili Park, and The Time I Didn't Get Arrested on The Spanish Steps (They Did) or the story of how The Top Floor of My Apartment is Haunted.
Traveling this long road, unsure of where it leads or what it is, I feel only some control writing meaning for it, for the hope I will see a split second of self-gratification, of beauty, or the chance I might create something someone else might love. The only time I feel really alive is when I am writing which is why I might step aside from the Bar Fight Blog to make time for what I really love, writing stories that aren't supposed to be true (i.e. another novel)—seeking not forgiveness—not acceptance—searching for a shot at redemption, beauty and a reason to believe in them.
The last thing I saw in Naples, March 2010, as I walked towards the train station, thinking of how nice the city is now that most of the garbage had been disposed of, was a man speeding around a tight bend on a moped. A woman rode on the back as a dog ran towards her, bit into her purse, and was dragged as a grown man chased after the motorcycle shouting, "woof!, woof, woof, woof, woof!" Seriously? No joke. This was the last time I ever left Naples. Most Importantly almost everything written in this blog is true, however I made up the date "April 12th" off of the top of my head because I knew I wrote a date but can't recall the exact one. The rest truly was based on an email sent on 3/21/2010.