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Hate Mail

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Hate Mail

Couple things.  First, this is my 100th post.  Yea for me.

Two, I received my first piece of hate mail the other day.  Pretty exciting.  Actually, I didn't receive it.  Justine's 85-year-old grandmother did.  No return address (at least nothing legible), typed on a quarter sheet of paper and addressed only to Justine's last name.  Which isn't even Justine's grandmother's last name.  It's not a long letter, only a paragraph, which spends the bulk of its time chastising my website, blog, and character.

I will reprint this letter.  Now.

Looking at joeclifford and [j], what is that all about? Him being an ex junkie as cool? As art? Are coddled, still in business heroin cocaine meth dealers going to be there? It ' s (sic) all so cool, so common. Too bad that bright, good things that need attention are being missed. To most it would seem that a lowlife has found the big scam.

I probably should just ignore this--I mean, that would be the smart thing to do, not giving airtime to someone who doesn't even have the decency to contact me directly--but I feel the need to respond.  Not because I am upset by these charges, but because the logic is so faulty, the writing so poor, I am offended.  Not as a person, but as a writer.  

Like I said, there was no real return address, but I like to know to whom I am speaking, and if you look closely enough on the back of the envelope you can almost make out "D. Waz."  So let's go with that.

And since everyone loves a list, let's break this fucker down, bullet style.

  • OK, Mr. D. Waz, first let me just say that, this being 2011, no one really types and mails letters anymore.  In fact, my blog, which you hate so much (yet still apparently read), comes with a convenient "comment" section.  This allows readers to, y'know, post comments.  It's not complicated.  Just type what you want to say in the little box there and click "post comment."  You don't even have to use your real name (which seems to be a concern of yours).  You also won't be wasting paper.  So, c'mon, man, what say you go electronic and save a tree?  It's the fucking Bay Area.
          Let's go line-by-line.
  • Looking at joeclifford and [j], what is that all about? Him being an ex junkie as cool? As art?  Ignoring your interesting pronoun choice (i.e., dangling modifier), I will answer your question, Mr. Waz.  Yes, writing is considered "art."  Some other artistic pursuits include, but are not limited to, painting, dancing, singing, and puppetry.  Now, no one is saying you have to partake, observe, and/or participate in these art forms, but you're the one who came to my fucking sites; I didn't come to yours.  Now is it "good" art?  I don't know; that really isn't my call.  But people seem to like my work enough that I spend a good chunk of time doing it, to middling/moderate success.  I have a handful of decent publications, an agent for my books, which have garnered a modicum of interest, a reading series I produce, have had my education paid for, etc.  Is all my work "about [my] being an ex-junkie as cool"?  Hmm. On my website, I have links to maybe two dozen publications, only five of which detail my addiction.  In fact, most of my stories are noir fiction, so I think you may be placing a disproportionate weight on a handful of pieces (fixating?)  But let's go with those few that deal directly with my former drug problem.  Maybe you don't understand how writing works (judging by your clunky syntax and complete disregard for grammar, I am guessing that is the case).  The first rule of creative writing, Mr. D. Waz, is "show don't tell."  That means when a writer is describing a scene, he or she should stick to the details, character traits, etc., and avoid commentary.  For instance, if I wanted to depict someone as angry, I might write, "His face turned flush and he clenched his fists." This is better than writing "He was angry," which is lazy writing.  I tell you this, Mr. Waz-Not-Waz, because when I detail scenes from my past that involve my addiction, I want to paint as accurate a picture as I can for the reader, good, bad, and ugly.  I do not wish to proselytize or get didactic (that means "preachy").  I merely want to place the reader in "the moment," let him or her make up his or her own mind.  That you read my work about eating out of dumpsters, living in skid row hotels and injecting mice shit as "cool," well, I think that says more about you than it does me.  Which isn't surprising.  There is a reason "junkie fiction" is a genre, which has been populated by everyone from Burroughs to Welsh to Carroll to Stahl, why it sells.  People like you find it fascinating.  I mean, you read my work, which is fairly extensive. I read a few sentences of yours, and I don't think I'll be reading any more.
          (I don't think I need to say this, but I will take the time here, in case anyone out there lacks the close reading skills of Mr. Waz-Not-Waz.  But, no, kids, drugs are not cool.  I lost far more than I ever gained.  I missed my sister growing up.  I missed my mother dying.  And I lost a lot of fucking time.)

  • Are coddled, still in business heroin cocaine meth dealers going to be there? Is who going to be where?  My blog?  My website?  My wedding?  My house?  And I don't think "coddled" is the word you are looking for.  Expanding one's vocabulary is a good thing,  D. Waz, and I applaud your trying to do that here.  But it's really important you know what the word you are using means. Going to the Free Online Dictionary (you can also find the word in a regular dictionary, since you seem to be adverse to technological advances):  cod·del (kdl) tr.v. cod·dledcod·dlingcod·dles 1. To cook in water just below the boiling point: coddle eggs. 2. To treat indulgently; baby. See Synonyms at pamper. 

I don't think you you mean to imply I am an egg, so I guess you mean I've been indulged?  How exactly?  Was it my elegant depiction of Hepatitis Heights that invoked images of servant quarters and ponies?  No, Mr. Waz-Not-Waz, despite how "cool" you may think being a junkie was, it pretty much sucked balls.  You don't eat most days, get sick a lot, go to jail, and have friends die.  A lot happened out there; being "coddled" wasn't one of them.  And who the fuck are these "heroin coke meth dealers" who are "still in business"?  Dude, you need to stop watching TV so much.  Everyone who has a drug problem isn't a lowlife dealer hanging around preschool playgrounds tugging at his listless member.  Most people with drug problems are regular people who got caught up in something they can't get out of. People make mistakes, Mr. Waz-Not-Waz.  I've always believed that the mark of a man is not how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit...and keep moving forward. OK, maybe not always but certainly since the last Rocky movie came out. Life is for living, son, and when you screw up, even as bad as I have, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward.  It's called a second chance, and it is what America is all about.  So if you don't believe in that, then you are a freedom-hating commie bastard, and you can stop reading my blog.  Terrorist.

  •  It ' s (sic) all so cool, so common.  Learn how to fucking punctuate.  Again with the "cool."  That you read the hell I describe as "cool" has me concerned about you, Wazzer.  You might want to hit a meeting.  (But I will not take umbrage with the "common" part. Publishers seem to agree.)

  • Too bad that bright, good things that need attention are being missed. Oh, wait.  Wazzy...are you the "bright, good things"?  This is starting to make sense... I get it.  Dude, you're in love with my girlfriend, aren't you?  Justine used to live with her grandparents in high school, which is why you might send a letter there.  I am starting to get a picture here.  Did your creepy, crappy (anonymous) poetry (that you only showed to your cat) fail to make an impression all those years ago?  You see on Facebook that Justine is marrying me, brings up old feelings of rejection... Listen, Wazzy Waz, don't feel bad.  Justine is really, really attractive.  But so am I.  Water seeks its own level.  So you could've written as well as I and still not gotten her.  Not likely.  I mean, the "writing as well as I" part.  I've read your letter. 

  • To most it would seem that a lowlife has found the big scam.  What the fuck are you even talking about?  Having a website and blog?  Dude, anyone can have a blog.  They're fucking free!  You mean because people read my blog?  I'm supposed to feel bad about that?  I can't help that no one would read your incoherent fused sentences and crappy comma-spliced love letters.  Go read them to your fucking cat (unless he/she is dead by now.  In which case, I'm sorry.  I like animals).  But you want a website, hire a guy to design one. Shit.  It's not some secret club.  There are only, like, a billion websites. I won't argue about the "lowlife" part, though.  It's a mantle I wear proudly.  But where is this "big scam"?  To date I have made exactly $420 from my writing career.  Four hundred and twenty fucking dollars. I write because I like to write, and (most) people like to read what I write.  But I do it for free.  If there is some "big scam" out there that I can get in on with my writing, please please please let me know.

     I hope this answers all you questions, Mr. D. Waz.  If not, I run a reading series  The next one will be Friday, May 13th, 5512 San Pablo, Oakland, 7pm.  And my band, the Wandering Jews, will be playing at the Red Devil Lounge in SF on May 5.  I invite you to come and meet me, say these things in person, where we can open an honest discourse and share a beer (you can have a beer; I'll have a Diet Coke).  But I am guessing a man who doesn't even sign his name or contact me in person probably isn't big on the face-to-face.  In any event, I ask you please not to send nasty anonymous letters to my (soon-to-be) 85-year-old grandmother (in-law).  That sort of makes you a douche.   


At April 18, 2011 at 10:41 AM , Blogger Justine said...

Go Joe! Dude is a creepy bastard.

At April 18, 2011 at 12:42 PM , Blogger Soybean said...

What?!!! You didn't like my letter? I jest of course. In all seriousness that is kind of creepy. And anyone who thinks you glamorize drug addiction obviously hasn't read your memoir completely or with anything resembling an intelligent thought. I have read it several times, as you know, and there was nothing "cool" (ugh) about it. While the writing itself is beautiful, what it describes is not. Waz needs to learn the difference.

At April 18, 2011 at 12:45 PM , Blogger Melanie said...

Wow, creeper...
Joe, love your blog. I read it all the time. Congrats on 100! See you at the wedding.

At April 18, 2011 at 1:09 PM , Blogger JCase said...

It's apparent to me know that you should have followed the puppetry trail...

At April 18, 2011 at 8:20 PM , Blogger Jason said...

I love the breakdown and the accusation re: "bright, good things..." is brilliant! Way to defend your family, Joe.

At April 18, 2011 at 10:09 PM , Blogger Heather said...

Fucking hilarious! Aren't you glad there are crazy nut jobs out there who love to write whatever is on their mind - whether it makes sense or not. Wait! Do I mean Waz or :)

At April 18, 2011 at 11:33 PM , Blogger Greg Kim said...

Congrats on 100, Joe. You're a great writer and receiver of creepy fan mail.

At April 19, 2011 at 7:44 AM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Thanks, Greg. To quote Gary Larsen, "Welcome to Hell; here's your accordion."

At April 19, 2011 at 8:49 AM , Blogger esther said...

You know you've made it when you are inspiring psychopaths to write you about your writing. Welcome to the big league, my friend.

At April 19, 2011 at 8:53 AM , Blogger DSobczak said...

Joe, I am now in search of a typewriter and some envelopes. I plan to write as many creepy and unintelligble hate letters to you as possible. Please make sure that you dissect my notes as brilliantly as you did this piece of hate mail.

Thouroughly entertaining and made me laugh several times.

To expidite the process can you give me your address, I wouldn't want to send any of my hate mail to Justine's grandmother by mistake.

At April 19, 2011 at 9:56 AM , Blogger Jen Bartman said...

Hey, Joe. I think it's actually a creepy love poem delivered in code. I have deciphered it by rearranging (but not changing or deleting) the words and adding punctuation that makes more sense.

What Is It All About?

Joe, so big, looking at cool art,
being an ex junkie, being most missed!
Too bad. Need that attention,
Clifford. Going to be there?

Him as? As? Candyandcigarettes., still in business.

That would seem so cool
to a lowlife--coddled, common.
It ' s all the heroin,
cocaine, meth dealers, scam.

And [j]oeclifford has found
bright, good things that are. That are.

At April 19, 2011 at 9:58 AM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Awesome, Bartman!

At April 20, 2011 at 5:54 AM , Blogger Joe said...

couldn't stop reading. raced through it. turned your frown upside down on the page. nice work.

At April 29, 2011 at 6:56 AM , Blogger Bradley Sands said...

Maybe junkie memoirs were all the rage in 1821, but now they're boooring. Find a new trend. Or a more interesting drug.

At April 29, 2011 at 7:44 AM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

D. Waz, is that you? (I'm starting to think you might be right. I may've missed the boat. I'm thinking of formaldehyde or maybe...minoxidil?)

At April 29, 2011 at 1:46 PM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

BTW, Bradley, "all the rage in 1821" has had me laughing all morning. Good line!

At April 30, 2011 at 1:50 PM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At April 30, 2011 at 1:55 PM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Bradley, you're the editor of Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens? For that last time, I said I'm sorry I made fun of your magazine's name. I even wrote an entire post about how I learned a very valuable lesson about why it was wrong to do that. For Christ's sake, man, let it go.

At June 4, 2011 at 8:25 AM , Blogger Bradley Sands said...

For Christ's sake, man, let it go? Just keep mentioning the title of the journal and it will keep popping up on my google alerts. It's convenient for you that you deleted the entry. It was much more involved than just making fun of the name.

"I'm supposed to be rejecting them, not the other way around"

You have a great attitude.

You wrote a blog entry where you whined about a story rejection that you received OVER THREE YEARS AGO.

"For Christ's sake, man, let it go."

Your blog entry was pretty much an open letter to an editor who hasn't worked for me for about three years. I thought your entry was pathetic and hilarious, so I posted a link to it on my facebook wall and some of the journal's readers came over to your blog and made comments.

At June 4, 2011 at 8:37 AM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Bradley, I have nothing against your magazine, and I appreciate your reposting. Seriously. I just want people to read this thing, so that helps. I don't care if they necessarily LIKE it. And as for the humor of those posts, some people found them funny, some did not. But it was all in good fun. It's a fine line to skirt, and one can't always get it perfect. And it's got me reading the work of authors who have appeared in YOUR journal. So please keep reading, apologies if I offended, and best wishes!

At June 4, 2011 at 8:56 AM , Blogger Bradley Sands said...

Alright. I guess I'll forgive you considering I can't recall your entry in its entirety and holding grudges is pretty lame. Although I recall your blog entry coming off very mean spirited. Something akin to "How could a journal with such a stupid name possibly reject my wonderful story? I can't understand it." While the truth is we reject about 1000 stories per issue.

And c'mon. Read a sample of an issue before submitting to ANY journal to see if your work is appropriate unless it's print and you can't afford it. I have a few online issues. You should have read a story or two.

At June 4, 2011 at 9:03 AM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Thanks, Bradley! (And, yeah, probably my worst post, which is why I deleted it. I was trying to be snarky and cutting-edge and it came off as petty and mean-spirited. Which is not what I intended. Again, fine line). I will check out some stuff.

Now it's time to get married. Again.

Best, joe.


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