I’m Robert van Vliet. I grew up in Saint Paul. At one time or another, I’ve lived in Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, NYC, and PDX. For most of that time, I felt like George Bailey if he had managed to get out of Bedford Falls. Stickers on my suitcase, stamps in my passport. But eventually I discovered to my surprise and dismay that to be happy, I need four sharply delineated seasons — especially if two of them are seemingly endless and absurdly brutal in their extremes. So I have returned to the Twin Cities, for good.
Over the years, I have been, among other things, a typographer, a tutor & substitute teacher for middle school & high school, a singer/songwriter, and a repair technician for Macintosh portable computers. Oh, and I was also a customer service representative way back when people still bought things using telephones and glossy four-color catalogs printed on paper and bound with staples. A writer’s résumé.
I was a poetry blogger for a while during the Aughts. It was fun while it lasted, but I never want to hear the words “Flarf” or “School of Quietude” ever, ever again.
I chose to blog pseudonymously partly because I’m an introvert, but mostly because I originally intended the whole blogging thing to be a lark. A pseudonym allowed me take it exactly as seriously as it deserved — namely, not at all. Also, even then, there was something about online “communities” that made me want to keep it all at arm’s length. It just seemed like a smart thing to do, long before the trolls began slouching en masse towards the comments sections to be born. But to live, apparently, is to war with trolls. Fine. After all, there’s more of us than of them.
Speaking of names: I am not related to Captain Beefheart but I love his music, especially Trout Mask Replica (of course) and Doc at the Radar Station. (And I have a soft spot for Mirror Man, which was one of the first really influential LPs I bought during high school — along with XTC’s English Settlement, Suzanne Vega’s first album, Robyn Hitchcock’s Globe of Frogs, Peter Gabriel’s melt, and Coltrane’s Live at Birdland.)
I own nearly three thousand books and I’ve even managed to read some of them. (I would definitely not blame you if, upon learning that I’ve read Gravity’s Rainbow eight times (so far), your reaction was to back away with an expression of mild horror. You have three thousand books, and you’re thinking about reading that thing again? Really? Yeah, well: those last hundred pages are actually starting to make sense — but maybe that’s just the Stockholm Syndrome kicking in…)
Since the mid ’80s — aside from some wretched day jobs, and a dark period in 1996–98 — I have only used Macintosh computers, and almost exclusively portables. I was disappointed by recent iterations of the MacBook Pro, so I clung to my late-2011 13″ model like Ishmael to the coffin. But Apple finally announced a recall program for their atrociously fail-prone butterfly keyboards, so I recently upgraded to a 13″ Retina MacBook Air. So far, so good.
The first things I install on every new Mac are Alfred, 1Password, and Cocktail. Depending on the project, when I write on my Mac, I use either Scrivener, Bear, or Byword (and sometimes iA Writer). And on my iOS devices, it’s Bear and 1Writer. But almost everything starts in Drafts (especially now that full actions support has come to the Mac OS version…).
That said, I’d rather use paper notebooks and journals. You probably should, too. Not only do they lack intrusive ads, and will not track you, they also don’t require batteries. And I promise that you’ll think better, you’ll own all your own content, and they pose an almost insurmountable challenge to online hackers.
Zebra Sarasas are virtually the only pens I use. They are vastly superior to, say, Pilot G2s. Darker lines, and the fastest instant-dry on virtually every type of paper I’ve tried. Are you left-handed? Then you need to use these pens. I may love Sarasas, but I prefer pencils — especially General’s Cedar Pointe, Pacific, or Goddess pencils. But honestly, most of the time I use any ballpoint lying around, because life’s too short.