To the airport early

I’m just about ready to go home, dry some clothes, and then finish my packing for the trip. It’s always nice when the last details fall into place and everything starts rolling. My favorite time is when I get to the airport early, my bags are checked, my backpack is at my feet, and I can write in my journal and watch the planes fly away as I wait for my boarding time.

I’m not feeling too sick today – I took some sutafed-type medicine and spent most of the morning buzzing all over the place. Without caffeine as a base reference, it really felt potent. Cool.

I spent a lot of last night playing tetris plus and trying to finish the game. There are 4 cities with 20 levels each. I’ve cleared two cities, and I’m on level 20 of the third city. I hope I can finish the damn thing on the plane.

Anyway, time to split. I probably won’t be able to write until I’m in Indiana. Until then…


Getting a cold

The rest of today, tomorrow, and then I leave for Indiana. I’m starting to get a cold, and I’m trying every remedy possible – vitamins, vaporizer, medicines, and soup. I’m not doing too bad, so hopefully the flight won’t be a disaster. I got some special earplugs you wear for flying – they have a weird valve in them which protects your inner ear from the pressure change. Maybe they’ll do the trick.

I think I destroyed a Solaris machine here at work, trying to upgrade it. I needed to install a patch from Sun, and the patch completely flattened the computer. I think I’ll have to install the OS all over again. At least that gives me a nice, mellow task to eat up my afternoon.

Because of the cold, I haven’t been doing much more than resting and packing. I’ve been trying to get past level 20 of tetris plus on the gameboy, but it’s a real ball-breaker. Maybe I will make it on that 4 hour plane ride….


My old room

I talked to my mom the other day, and she said she’s keeping the old house, but she’s renting it out now. Some background: the 5 of us moved there in 1978. My parents divorced in 1984, and my mom bought my dad’s share of the house. I moved out in 1989, back in 1990, out in 1991, and back for the summer of 1993. My mom moved in with her new husband in early 1996, and my sisters both left this year.

It’s strange for me to think about that place. I always expect to see my Camaro in the driveway, leaking oil, and my life’s possessions stuffed in my wood-paneled room in the basement, the room I helped build. Now I usually visit in a brand new rental car, and last xmas, my room was a storage space for sewing machines and stuff from my grandpa’s estate. No more iron maiden posters, no more model airplanes, no more netting from the ceiling hiding the joists and air conditining ducts.

The room was 11 by 11, more or less. I built two walls in an L-shape in the corner of the basement, which meant I had two walls of fake paneling, one of poured cement, and one that was half-cement and half-the backside of the livingroom’s walls. There was no ceiling. The carpet varied, because I was always getting leftovers from my mom’s frequent redecorating projects in the rest of the house. I didn’t get a door for about a year. I didn’t even have paneling for a summer – I had to build the place, or share a room with my stepbrother. Easy choice.

During high school, I decorated with stuff I stole from the performing arts center. I had part of a tree from Brigadoon – chickenwire, plywood, and plaster – covering the back of the livingroom wall. Shelves covered two walls, lined with old model airplanes. Iron Maiden’s Aces High poster covered the cement wall. The netting on the ceiling. I rearranged everything when I got a real stereo in my senior year. On one of the walls, I taped up every award, scholarship, and college acceptance during my senior year.

I recently found a videotape that was shot by my old friend Joe Gellert, with me and Derik Rinehart acting like idiots in my house. My room still had the Iron Maiden poster. My Camaro was in the garage. I weighed about 100 pounds. The whole thing freaked me out, like a time machine except I couldn’t grab the camera from Joe and pan around and see all of the little things I wanted to see.

When I left for college, I left behind all of the furniture. Good thing – I was back a year later, with a bunch of new CDs, and a woman who was living with me. The room overflowed with two people’s stuff until she found her own apartment. For a year, it felt like high school again, except I had more porno and Ray Miller’s fender stack was in the middle of my room for a while.

I moved back to IU, took the porno, and left the furniture. (my car broke down on the way there, too). The room stayed in the same condition for my occasional visits back.

The last girlfriend to visit my mom’s house was Johanna, for Thanksgiving 1991. My first four girlfriends all visited my house. One pretty much lived there for six months. I discontinued the visit policy after Johanna.

The xmas of 1991 was my last major holiday stay at the house. I think I was there for almost two weeks, and it drove me fucking insane. I brought with me the earliest permutation of my IBM XT clone, which was just a bunch of parts thrown in a metal case. I spent the whole break writing an adventure game in modula 2 and trying to seduce my backup plan from Johanna. Neither projects were completed.

I moved all of my stuff back in the basement in 1993, in two or three trips. I started buying furniture like mad to fill up my future apartment with Andrew in Colonial Crest. I also ran my zine from the room. I had a giant L-shaped computer desk, 6 floor lamps, about 500 CDs, and two months of unanswered main in that tiny room. I was working two jobs and wishing Tanya was back. And I didn’t have a car. Thank Satan for Ray Miller, my errand-boy of the summer.

I loaded that U-haul full of a lot of stuff when I left, only leaving behind my bed (I bought a new one). Right before I went to pick up the truck, I went to visit my dad, uncle, and grandma. It was the last time I saw my grandma – she had a heart attack a few months later. When I came home for the funeral, my room only had a bed, and a stack of xmas cards I opened 2 years before.

The room stayed in minimalist state until 1995, when I moved to Seattle. I showed up with the one way uhaul, and filled it with a bunch of stuff, including the bed, when I left. I came back that xmas and slept in the guest bedroom – same in 1996. The shower felt horrible, and the basement looked alien. Each visit, I’ve picked around, trying to find little things to bring back that I know will get destroyed otherwise. I found my Star Wars figures, some C-64 games, ad a couple of books. But now, it will all be gone.

The house will still be there, which is strange. I don’t know if it will be rented out, or if I’ll be able to pick through the rubble. I’m hoping the latter, just to get a good look at it. I never thought the damn thing would give me such a sense of nostalgia – I worked so long to escape it. Oh well.


Colitis is not a flower

I went to the doctor yesterday. He said I have colitis, but I don’t need to take any medicine. If I stick to a high fiber, low fat diet, it will all balance out. So disregard my panic attack a few days ago about all that.

I’m pretty devoid of all thought today – it’s just one of those days. I wish I could be home, half asleep and reading a book. I’m starting to think more about the trip to Indiana. Some of it is excitement, some worry. All of the things like catching the plane, leaving my car in long-term parking, etc. bother me. I’m worried about what I’ll eat when I’m gone, too. I guess I can find something, but I’m worried that everyone will want to eat fast food or in restaurants for the whole trip. I’ll work that out I guess.

I am looking forward to seeing Bloomington, and seeing everything and everyone. I’m worried about where I’ll park if I want to visit campus, and I’m worried about getting kicked out of computer labs because I’m not a student. Elkhart is just Elkhart – I get a strange satisfaction out of driving around there and seeing that things have changed, mostly for the worse. It’s eerie to see places from high school that are now vacant lots or Mexican groceries or Wal Marts. I guess even though I hated high school and the year I was at IUSB, I got comfortable with all of the stores and places and restaurants, and now many of them are gone or changed. The town in general is pretty beat, too. It’s 99% factories and 1% stupid public park projects that will never do any good, and that won’t change. But it looks more well-worn every time I visit. The roads are shittier, and busier. Crime is up, there are more cops, and the cops are even more belligerent. A “will work for food” sign on every corner. It’s weird stuff, but it’s interesting.

I have a vivid memory of driving across the Golden Gate bridge and thinking “I’m supposed to me at work right now”. I did the same thing in Las Vegas, during a plane change. Anyway…


Game Boy

I got a Game Boy last night – it was an early xmas present from Karena, so I’ll have something to do on the plane flight back to Indiana, other than planning the ritual murder of half the people on the plane. I got Tetris Plus and Star Wars, too. I like Tetris a lot, but the Star Wars is hard for me – I am not used to the Mario-type games where you have to jump around on a bunch of floating platforms to get through a maze. I prefer shoot-em-up games, or strategies of some sort. I want to go to this used record store in the U-district and pick up some more games.

I’ve been searching the web for other Game Boy stuff and there’s a lot of it. People are hacking game boys, copying ROMs, writing code, making new hardware, all kinds of stuff. It makes sense – a Game Boy has a 6502 in it – only 8K RAM though. And no keyboard. I guess people are working on that though.

It’s almost down to the line on this trip. I need to start thinking about what I’ll bring. I usually pack a shitload of stuff, and I need to bring less this time. But I also need to bring enough to be self-sufficient, since I won’t be staying in hotels where I can lift stuff from the room. I also want enough extra room in case I find any books or things at my mom’s that I want to bring back. I’m expecting most of my old stuff to be sold off at various garage sales in the past. Maybe there are a few books or Commodore games lying around I can save.


Revisiting old lit

“I wanna feel destruction
I wanna feel extinction”

Sorry, listening to Henry Rollins.

I’ve been trying to write a biography of my life for a while. It’s not like a memoirs or anything, just a few dozen pages that tell what happened to me from birth to present. Right now, I’m up to the beginning of 1992, and each year is taking progressively longer to write. It’s essentially a worthless exercise, but it’s keeping me busy. I’d rather be writing on something nobody will see than watching TV.

I read a book called Haunted, a kid’s book from maybe the 4th or 5th grade. It only took me an hour to read the whole thing. I found it at my mom’s house last Xmas, buried with a bunch of my old junk in the basement. I tried to snag all the books I could, including a 1972 encyclopedia I shipped back to Seattle via UPS, because I knew everything would end up at a garage sale or in the trash when my mom tried to sell the place. Anyway, this book was about two boys who had to housesit in the middle of nowhere, at a place where some old German guy shot his wife, the cat, and then himself. Anyway, it turned out that they were Nazis, and the house was in the wife’s name, and willed to some american nazi party, but it turns out she was really adopted and found out her real mom died in the camps, so she wanted to change the will, and Adolf plugged her. I remembered a few of the details in my mind, and wanted to see if I could pick up on anything I was clueless about as a 10 year old. It wasn’t as memorable a book as The Haunted Cove, another book I loved when I was a kid, but it was still fun to read. Maybe someday I’ll write a “young adult” title. Who knows.


Colitis, bipolar

It’s been a while. Two basic things have stopped me from writing, both with twisted, deep roots. Let me explain.

First, I’ve been having medical problems. My doctor now thinks I have colitis, which is no death sentence, but means I’ll have to radically change my already radically changed diet, and possibly go on some medication with some drastic side effects. All of this worries me – I want to change as a person, but I don’t want the limitations and stigma attached with a disease.

Example: In 1990, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder – manic depression. This was after a year of a corny therapist in high school, and another year of Prozac and therapy during my freshman year of college. Prior to the diagnosis, I always thought my depression, my imbalance, would be something I could hide until it was all over. I ended therapy in high school, a few weeks before graduation, and thought it was just a chapter behind me, like when the inner ear infection goes away and you finish the bottle of antibiotics and you’re on your way.

In the first year of college, when the depression returned, I hid the therapy well. Prozac was not a household word, and I didn’t tell anyone about it. In 1989, everyone and their brother hadn’t been on an antidepressant – knowledge opf drugs for mental health was limited to memories of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest or something. I kept it inside, and seldom told anyone. No problem.

So I was diagnosed with manic depression, put on lithium, and got used to blood tests. I had more side effects and limitations, and I gained some weight. But I only let my inner circle of friends know about the medication, the doctors. I never “came out”, because I never felt a need to. I can understand how gays would want to come out and avoid telling lies about something as basic as their sexuality. But to me, the lithium and the therapy was something very personal, something I didn’t tell to the world. I didn’t want special attention or treatment – I wanted to define my own personality, and avoid mixing the diagnosis and the label with that.

I kept with this plan, and kept in the closet, so to speak. There were small limitations that bothered me – I would never be able to fly a plane. I would never be able to work for the CIA. Oh well, I would never get drafted, something that comforted me during Desert Storm. Prozac became a household name, and I saw many attention-hungry people who told every person in the world about their “problem” and how they were on Prozac. Lightweights.

[2020 update: I’m not bipolar as of a dozen or so years ago. I was misdiagnosed. Someone tell my mom this, because any time she hears the word ‘bipolar’ she has to call me and tell me about it.]

Anyway, I’ve kept in the closet for the most part, although I’ve told a few people. (and I guess this post tells a few more, although I’m lucky if 3 people read this thing). And now I’m faced with another sickness that might not be as closetable as the depression. I could have to take a steroid to calm down my large intestine, which could mean weight gain, insomnia, osteoperosis, etc etc. So I spent all weekend worrying about that. I guess my solution is just to take what comes to me and to keep on fighting for my health. I’m feeling somewhat better on the diet – it’s been almost 3 months, and I’ve lost 15 pounds. I don’t even remember what a quarter pounder tastes like. It’ll give me more inspiration to write more, and hopefully I will.

The other reason I haven’t been writing is the usual mix-up about why am I even writing a journal, and is all of this stereotypical and boring, and am I wasting my time, etc. I can’t answer that right now, but I felt compelled to write, and had a lot to talk about, so I’ll write today. Who knows about tomorrow, but we’ll see what happens.

I met the writer Kevin Canty on Saturday and saw him read at Elliott Bay Books. I loved his short story collection and wanted to check out his new book. It was a quiet reading, but he said a few things that I liked. I read all of his new book last night and loved it…

All out of steam now – time to think about work…


Back when riding a 20″ BMX bike was not ironic

I remember riding my bike in my subdivision as a kid, maybe 11 or 12 years old, the age before you start to worry about girls and money and looks, but around the time you realize your parents are idiots and there’s more to life than sitting in front of a TV playing with legos. I won this BMX bike from Honeycomb cereal, one of the best injections of luck in my life, since before that I had a stupid bananna seat bike that I probably would’ve had until I got my first car.

We rode the subdivision roads – me and Manges and Wonko and Tom. There were also undeveloped pieces of land with dirt trails and forests and abandoned runways and empty fields. Summertimes were spent exploring these wastelands, looking for hidden roads, old junk, or lost Hustler magazines.

One spring day, I rode into this huge undeveloped piece of land by Wonko’s house. It had a higher piece of land that sat on the same level and behind a road of houses in the subdivision. A piece of land about as big as a baseball field cut down one side by a dirt road, it dropped down a steep hill into some thick trees and later into a lower and larger area near the Elkhart river. I pedaled the red Huffy over the crest of the hill, and started leaning into the downhill pull when I saw something that made me lay down the bike and gaze in horror. The Elkhart river, flooded with melting snow from the long winter, turned the entire back half into a lake. Where a larger-than-football sized field sat with bike trails, hidden forts, trees, and abandoned junk was now a giant sea, almost to the horizon. And I almost biked right into it.

I don’t know why I thought about this, except that I’ve been trying to think of a time in my life when I wasn’t depressed or upset, and when I had a solid network of friends without condition or distance. I think my closest experiences were when I was a kid, in the 6th or 7th grade, maybe going into 8th. My first thought on this is that I wasn’t as concerned about my place in life during those years, and kids aren’t as competetive or cliqueish in those years (at least at my school – I’m sure that little John-Benet Ramseys get their first boob job at the age of 10 now). But after reading more about it, I’ve realized that my depression probably started around then. At the very beginning of 9th grade, I had a huge growth spurt which probably did something to my brain. It sounds far-fetched, but I’ve read in a bunch of psychology books that manic-depression usually hits like that.

The different pieces of my life don’t come into question until I start thinking of book ideas and plots. I’d love to knock some story out of my childhood or teenage years and come up with a book about it. Writers like Hemmingway, Orwell, Henry Miller, and Bukowski seemed to be masters at that. But my life has been pretty boring. Case in point – my first book, Summer Rain. I put a lot of time into it, and loved the idea as I was writing it. But after a year or writing, I held a largely boring and rambling story about my life one summer. With enough bullshit, the basic plot almost made sense, but it never grabbed you. And then I took it to a writing conference and talked to some GenX hipster/shyster that told me I had to change 1000 different things about the plot. His ideas were like taking The Grapes of Wrath and turning it into Microserfs, a plot change at a time. It’s been eating at my ever since, whether or not I should rewrite that book. It was based on a short story originally, and a lot of people liked it, including me. Maybe at some time, I’ll chop at the existing manuscript and make it into a series of short stories, and then clean up each one as I go along. Who knows.


New glasses, old books

New glasses are strange. I always worry if they’re crooked or not, since the lackeys at the optical store adjust the frames like I adjust an aluminum can before I chuck it in the trash. I mean recycling bin – if recycling is such a big hit around here, why isn’t aluminum any cheaper? Why don’t they reprogram some of those GM welding robots to pull cans and paper out of garbage so we don’t have to separate things? Instead of throwing all that stuff in landfills, they should get some joint venture going between the scrap dealers and the landfills. When the trucks show up, they dump everything in a waiting area. Then the salvagers can pick through it for free, and send the rest down the line.

I always wanted to open a salvage shop, one of the kinds that goes through buildings before they are destroyed, and takes the sinks and toilets and rare tile and whatnot, and then resells them. It’d cost some money up front, but you could make a killing. A character in a book did that, but I forget what book. They went after the big stuff, like boilers and furnaces, and sold them at el cheapo rates to scummy apartment buildings. I wish I could remember the name of that book…

There are a few books that haunt me, the details show up in my everyday life without warning. Deja vu is worst when you feel like something in a story or a movie instead of your own life. The Five Gates of Hell by Rupert Thomson is a book with plenty of scenery that reappears in my life periodically. And anytime I’m on the ocean, I still see the setting for this book I read as a kid, maybe 20 years ago, called The Haunted Cove. When I was on the Oregon coast, I thought I was IN that book. Even though I hadn’t touched it in decades, I could see the little cottages, sand-swept roads, and breaks in the water along the shoreline. I dug my copy of the book, a book club hardcover now faded by a quarter century in my mom’s basement, and it turns out it was written by a woman, Elizabeth Baldwin Hazelton, who lived on the Oregon coast also. Pretty freaky stuff.


The art of being a pompous asshole

More doctor-like stuff today, that I don’t want to talk about. Nothing disastrous, just not publically consumable.

In the waiting room, I spent a while reading the John Gardner book, The Art of Fiction. What a pompous asshole. He goes on about Shakespeare all the time, like everybody’s read the complete works and memorized them. I’m sure some of you bastards out there have read more of the Bard’s stuff than me – that isn’t the point. Getting through the plots is one thing; comparing every frigging metaphor in your life to parts of his work is just plain annoying. Of course, Gardner’s book does have some good points and it does have some kick-ass exercises in the back. I’ve done some of them before, but I’m thinking its time to repeat them.

I got my new glasses, and it’s time to go pick them up. Another short day of writing on here… I hope my paper journal does better.