A room at the Standard. Night. An Alice Neel documentary on the TV with the sound off.
—Mary Woronov said that before she could start painting, she was like a dog trying to figure out where to take a shit, going around and around, and I do the same thing every morning for about three hours with writing.
—Then you’ve got writer’s block.
—Late onset writer’s block.
—Still it’s called a writer’s block. What you have to do is, first, I’m sure you have a note pad by your bed, but you have to have it right there. It doesn’t matter how bad the writing is. I can show you some, you write the first thing you’re thinking of, and as soon as you’ve written a word it’s like: fuck being a painter or an artist, you’ve destroyed a page, you’ve destroyed your idea, you look at it and think, what the fuck does that say? And that inspires you because you’re a visual person, so maybe for you writing’s pretty difficult, like it is for me. If I could be satisfied with writing, I’d be such a successful writer. And if I were satisfied with visual things—I’m quite sure I’m never going to be. If you give me the choice between writing or visual, I will go with writing any day.
—I found it easy to write when I was younger. A lot more than I do now. Writing could completely take me in, and made up for a lot of things that were not in my life, frankly. And now, first of all, I’m incredibly hypervigilant, perfectionistic to an idiotic degree. Because I know it doesn’t end up being anything perfect, anyway. No matter how much you fuss with it.
—You mean things you make that are visual? Or—your handwriting? You look at your handwriting—oh, no, I know what you’re talking about. Like when I make neons. You write something, and you think, that feels good, that looks good, it feels like it’s a thing, it’s moved from the heart to the soul to the mind to the eye, it’s working, it’s a full-circle thing. It’s an action, writing is an absolute action.
—Oh, on TV the other night, that film United 93, 83? The fourth plane on 9/11?
—I didn’t see it.
—It’s not a film I would normally watch, it was just on. I had the TV on as sort of an ambient visual, but towards the end, all these people had phones in the—in the headrest, and they were saying, “Just tell my family I love them,” “Just tell my wife I love her”—and I thought, well, of course, that’s what life is. That’s all it comes down to. “The plane is going to crash now, I love you.”
(story about a diver trapped in an underwater cave leaving a love letter)
—Do you have anyone to say that to? When the plane’s taking off, or the plane’s landing, do you have anyone to text, or—I have my mum, but she’s 84, and I have Docket, my cat, he doesn’t speak on the telephone any more. No one knows where I am.
—J. is the only person who knows where I am when I’m not here. Or when I am here.
—Do you care about anyone apart from J.? If my plane had crashed, would you have been upset?
—Of course I would. I love you.
—OK, so it’s not about who loves you, it’s about who you love that’s important. Now, I know lots of people love you, they are very fond of you, but you have to put the effort in.
—I don’t get to meet people. Most people I care about are not here. Vera lives in Berlin, Mike is in Dorset, Richard is in Havana. So if I want to see people I’m really close to I have to make all these stupid decisions. Like now, I have a window of two weeks—
—Was Vera a model?
—Her dad nearly killed Hitler.
—Yes, he tried—
—I met her 12 years ago. She wouldn’t remember me. We were both modeling for Vivienne Westwood.
—We’ve been close for 30 years. It’s weird how things go, because—
(a long story)
—the point is, she lived in Brooklyn for ten years, and I hardly saw her. Because generally, you also had to see him.